29 November 2019

Sarah Nur with Tony Abbott

Sarah Nur

Bachelor of Quantitative Finance
Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) (Industrial and Applied Mathematics)

Welcome to the Summer of 2014. That’s Sarah Nur in the pink dress at the opening of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s new head office. At the time she was just twenty-five and was selected to speak alongside its Chairman, Managing Director, and (then) prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Sarah is a proud Indonesian-Australian of Sasak descent. Her journey from a fishing village living in backpackers digs, to pursuing three maths and science degrees, rubbing shoulders with Australia’s biggest business titans, is a testament to the power of self-determination and generosity.

Raised on the tiny picturesque island of Lombok in Indonesia amongst roaming chickens, sandy beaches, and the stunning backdrop of bright green rice fields and towering mountains, Sarah Nur could have never predicted where she’d eventually end up.

Now working as a Data Scientist in one of Australia’s biggest retail banks – she’s come a long way from West Nusa Tenggara.

The village Sarah and her siblings grew up in was basically an unsealed road with maybe 100 houses, separated by alleyways just wide enough for motorbikes to pass. Horse-pulled carts rambled alongside small covered pick-up trucks or ‘bemos’ loaded with vegetables for market, and fast food chains were nonexistent.

While a happy existence, the opportunities an international education can bring were a world away.

After Sarah’s parents’ marriage breakdown, her mother who had always dreamed her children might receive an education in Australia, moved the family to Adelaide.

The cultural transition to a new country wasn’t smooth sailing for Sarah though, and as a teenager trying to fit in, it was even more complicated.

“Coming to terms with a vastly different way of life in Australia was a big adjustment for a fourteen-year-old. On my very first day of school I came home and asked my Mum how to say, “I hate school” in English,” says Sarah.

“Far from the high-achiever I had been all my life, I now grappled with subjects where I had to translate English back to Indonesian in my head to understand it.”

For Sarah, only mathematics with its common universal language, felt familiar and it became her favourite subject.

“I have always had rather thick skin and gradually my natural resilience came to the fore. When I was teased for the way I spoke I would turn it around into a joke and make people laugh. I learnt not to take things personally. If I didn’t easily fit, I would make my own way.”

Sarah and her family on the beach near their home at Senggigi, Indonesia
Sarah and her family on the beach near their home at Senggigi, Indonesia

However, Sarah’s final year of school was devastating. Her father passed away suddenly and in dealing with his death, she didn’t have the energy or inclination to think about anything long term.

That was until she stumbled upon an advertisement on the back of a Year 12 exam preparation book for the UniSA SA Water Hypatia Scholarship.

“It changed my life,” says Sarah. “Until then, I wasn’t aware that you could study mathematics degrees at university.”

“I succeeded in achieving the requisite ATAR in my Year 12 results and was extremely honoured and privileged to be awarded the Scholarship over three years, commencing at UniSA in 2008.”

The scholarship set her life on a completely different trajectory.

“It was more than just the money; what drove me was the knowledge that others believed in me and my potential to be successful as a woman in a traditionally non-female field.”

“I think there’s a lot to be said for sheer optimism and positivity in all situations and the belief that you can do anything if you’re given the opportunity.”

Sarah (4th from left) at the local school in Lombok
Sarah (4th from left) at the local school in Lombok

At UniSA Sarah thrived and her impressive academic achievements and the scholarship opened unimaginable doors for her.

“In my final year I was fortunate to participate in a Financial Mathematics semester exchange to the University of Twente in the Netherlands which was an amazing experience,” she says.

“After returning I decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) (Industrial and Applied Mathematics) which I completed in 2012 and I was selected into the graduate program at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank soon afterwards.”

Still at the Bank today, Sarah was offered a role as a Financial Analyst after the graduate program and a year later successfully progressed to Product Analytics Manager.

She’s since seen great success in her career. In the summer of 2014, Sarah was even selected to speak on behalf of staff at the opening of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s new head office.

In 2017, still enthralled by the world of data and analytics, Sarah commenced a Master’s degree in Data Science at UniSA and was later offered a Data Scientist position within the Customer Analytics and Insight team – a role she has been in for two years.

Sarah with her Bendigo Bank colleagues

“I am very proud of working for a bank which has a strong regional presence and locally governed branches. Our Community Enterprise Foundation directs charitable funds into hundreds of causes, with profit going back to local communities,” she says.

“This is important to me because I recognise that the generosity of others was transformative in my own journey. Generosity can make a huge impact.”

“It can be the jump start that someone needs to pursue their passions and transform their world.”

“My achievements are not just my own. They can be attributed to the sacrifices my mother made and the vision and support of donors. Looking back to the girl I was playing on that Indonesian beach, I am aware that I owe so much to the kindness of others.”

UniSA is also proud of its commitment to social equity and academic excellence as number one in the state for the success of economically disadvantaged students and number three worldwide for reducing inequality (2019 THE University Impact Rankings).

Nearly 30 per cent of commencing students to the University come from an economically disadvantaged background and UniSA is the leading university in South Australia for first generation students in their families (2020 Good Universities Guide).

This is largely thanks to the generosity of scholarship donors impacting countless deserving individuals – helping write their success stories.

For disadvantaged individuals with worthy dreams and aspirations, a scholarship can be the one thing they need to change their life forever.

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Our donors are helping write success stories

Behind every gift received is a person whose life is made better because of the belief and dedication of others.

Talk to us about how you or your company can support students like Sarah by visiting unisa.edu.au/supportscholarships, calling +61 8 8302 7375, or emailing giving@unisa.edu.au.

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