Bethany Hayes completed a Bachelor of Screen Arts (Animation) at Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), graduating in 2020. During her study journey she learnt everything she needed to launch a career in her chosen profession, but perhaps more significantly, she discovered herself.
Invercargill born and raised, Bethany enrolled at SIT, fresh from graduating James Hargest High School. A supportive art teacher encouraged Bethany to study animation after she won a national secondary school Sharpie drawing competition.
“I had no idea what I was going to do,” Bethany said. “I knew there would be drawing, but SIT exceeded my expectations... I just loved it. So much to do, to learn, and I would not change a thing as it was just the best.”
“You never know what you don’t know until you put yourself in a place where you can learn.”
Bethany is dyslexic, which creates challenges in reading and spelling, but this wasn’t a barrier to learning at SIT, as she was able to apply for a reader/writer through Student Accessibility Services. What also helped immensely was the student peer support. “Somebody who had done my course and explained it to me in student language – they gave me the run-down in plain English,” she explained.
Maturity and leadership abilities (cultivated earlier through Girls Brigade) came to the fore in year two when Bethany was made Student Rep for her class. In her final year, Bethany says she was “heavily influenced” and inspired by meeting international postgraduate students from China and South Korea. “They already knew how to be professional and how to be an adult. They were responsible and on point with their projects,” and Bethany enjoyed connecting with them. “I had somebody I could actually look up to. I was ready for adulthood and to be a grown-up.”
Learning healthy work habits and completing assignments were the most challenging aspects to master during Bethany’s degree. At the top of her ‘best experiences’ list, she rates making new friends, studying what she wanted, and having tutors who “want the best for you”.
Bethany suggests making the most of support services available to SIT students.
“Use the counsellors at SIT, it’s free, it gave me somebody to talk to, it gave me tools to help myself, and life skills as well, which I use to this day. You’ll learn more about yourself and grow regardless.”
SIT continued to provide support as Bethany sought work. “I first got an internship through SIT working for a tutor. Through the internship, she was employed as an Animator, doing freelance, project-based work for Meek and Wild Creations. “I wanted to stay in the game,” she said, and the work was good for her CV, as Bethany had in mind using her qualification to find work overseas. She also completed a University of Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) in Christchurch while she was saving money and preparing to go on her OE.
Bethany saved hard and worked two to three jobs to get to Japan in March 2023, where she’s now teaching English. “My dream while at SIT was to go to Asia; I couldn’t do it because of Covid, so I’m fulfilling that dream now.”
“SIT gave me the confidence to pursue what I wanted,” said Bethany. Even becoming an English teacher is the fulfilment of another long-held dream. “I used to want to be a teacher, but gave up after a while. Then I decided I could do it.” she explained.
Putting her artistic skills to good use with her Japanese pupils who love her drawings, each week Bethany rewards her younger students with an anime drawing. “My worst students have become my best students – they really want the drawings - bribery works!” she laughed.
Bethany’s in an advantageous position in Japan, working for a company which takes good care of its staff. “I live in a share home in a really nice area ... I’ve got options,” she says. “I can stay, I can go home, I could try to enter anime while here. It’s because of SIT I got overseas.”
With the Zero Fees Scheme, Bethany managed to achieve her degree with very little student debt, and it’s given her more freedom to make choices. “It’s okay to make decisions and you can always change your mind.” Still not sure what she’s going to do long term, Bethany’s focused on “doing what I want to do now”.
She’s philosophical about things which haven’t gone her way, garnering wisdom in the process when life didn’t turn out as planned. “Even if you’re not quite where you want to be, take little steps and you will find more opportunities will come your way,” Bethany says.
In the midst of gaining new skills and a career, Bethany went on a voyage of self-discovery, graduating SIT a different person, with more self-assurance, maturity, and confidence in her identity. The SIT experience allowed Bethany to feel excited about her future, to grow up, and not be afraid. “ It helped me work out who I am. I would never have been able to do it without them...I didn’t know who I was before SIT, but I found myself while studying.”