When Katharina Gutjahr-Holland graduated high school, she tried her hand at university, TAFE, living abroad, and an apprenticeship. When she felt something was missing, she enrolled at Griffith University to return to her original interests – health and the human body.
It had been five years since she finished high school when Katharina enrolled in the Bachelor of Health Science, which she started in the summer of 2017 during Griffith’s third trimester.
“It took some reflection on what I truly wanted, but at that point I knew I wanted a health focus for that solid, scientific foundation, but I also wanted as much flexibility as possible,” Katharina says.
“I chose Griffith because it offered lots of work integrated learning and had a wide range of industry connections that I knew would help me build a career during study and after graduation.
“I was also drawn to the awesome, familiar atmosphere on campus and Griffith Honours College as I was seeking a university with a strong extracurricular program. I also joined ENACTUS, a student club for social impact and entrepreneurial action.”
Katharina later signed up to the Environmental Health major to further focus her studies.
“Environmental health is far reaching and impacts every aspect of our life,” she says.
“I am passionate about environmental health because everything around us impacts our health, be it the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat or the homes we live in.
“I enjoy the broad approach to health that the major offers, especially in the uncertain times of climate change.”
While returning to university has allowed Katharina to follow this passion, she says there are some challenges that she’s learning to overcome by balancing her studies with other important aspects of her life.
“Finding a balance between my personal life, work and study was important to me, and it does require compromise sometimes,” she says.
“I’ve found that balance by building a routine and by making my own health and relationships a priority. It sounds counterproductive, but it’s not beneficial to me to have excellent grades if I’m not personally healthy or if I have poor relationships with my friends and family.”
Through her studies, Katharina is beginning to understand a secondary element to her passion for environmental health – public health.
“I have completed a placement at the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, and it opened my eyes to the complexity of operating a health service,” she says.
“It is an immense task to ensure that a hospital has clean, safe and adequate air and water supply. I also learned the importance of quality control and validating methods.
“I will be undertaking a second placement with a Public Health Unit, where I hope to gain more insight into the work that they do. I am very interested in that space as I am passionate about environmental impacts on population health.”
Katharina says that studying environmental health has not only allowed her to follow her passion, it’s also showed her the far-reaching impacts the environment can have on your health and the opportunities individuals have to live a healthy life.
“Obviously you learn about the environment, but it’s more than just the content,” she says.
“Through your studies, you will also build a different way of thinking about and approaching health. For anyone interested in health – especially the link between our environment and health – then I urge you to study Environmental Health, you won’t regret it.”
“All of the opportunities I had at Griffith helped me gain employment as an Environmental Health Officer before I even graduated”, she concludes.