When Perth mother Sharon Swaney applied to study a science degree at Curtin University, she was already up against the odds.
As a mature aged student and in the midst of a divorce she faced the possibility of an extremely uncertain future.
But she’ll tell you herself, she was more determined than ever to go to university and study.
“I thought, I can do it too. It’s not just for young people,” she said.
And for son Maxwell, who had already been studying at the Bentley campus for a year, her choice meant some adjusting.
He was going to be studying with his mother – while he studied psychology, Sharon majored in health promotion.
As any kid in his early teens and 20s will tell you, it’s very hard to come to terms with the fact your mum will now be your unofficial tavern buddy.
“Maxwell initially thought uni was his thing, and for the first few years we didn’t see much of each other on campus while he grew up a bit,” Sharon said.
“When Mum first told me I was like, ‘hey, uni is my stomping ground’,” Maxwell said.
But soon, the pair found themselves going for coffee, meeting up for lunch and eventually, confronting the possibility of studying a sexology unit together.
“We both agreed it couldn’t happen. We have a great relationship but that would have been asking too much,” Sharon said.
While they never took the class together, Maxwell developed a comedy skit ’Studying Sexology with my mum’, which he performed at an open mic competition at Curtin Tavern – to an audience that included Sharon.
And just this week, the pair graduated from their degrees with honours.
“I am really pleased with my achievement – but I am twice as proud of my son,” Sharon said.
But Maxwell disagrees – he said it was very difficult not to be impressed with his mum’s achievements.
“If there was any competition I would lose,” he said.
“Mum is on the Vice Chancellor’s list.”
Maxwell is hoping to work as a school psychologist after he completes a post graduate diploma this year, and Sharon is currently the Deputy Chair of the Immunisation Alliance of WA.