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Deakin alum Jo Van De Burgt and her daughter, Tea Van De Burgt (Residential Leader)
Deakin alum Jo Van De Burgt and her daughter, Tea Van De Burgt (Residential Leader)

It’s very special when children and their parents attend the same university, and for Burwood Residential Leader Tea Van De Burgt and her mother Jo Van De Burgt (BA 2008), that connection goes even further, with both sharing a love of the written word and the arts.

We sat down with Tea and Jo and asked them what inspired them to study at Deakin, and what their different experiences have been like.

Tea, where did you go to high school, and what led you to want to study at Deakin and live in Student Residences?

I went to Marist Sion College in Warragul and graduated in 2021. During year 12 I studied with the Deakin Accelerate program, which made me realise that I loved Deakin’s method of teaching, and I fell in love with the passion and experience that the lecturers and teachers had. I had always wanted to go to Deakin after hearing about my Mum’s experience there, but completing units with Deakin in my final year of high school solidified my decision.

Living on Res was a decision I made in order to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone, but it was also a matter of convenience and opportunity, as living closer to the city would allow me to network easier, and being close to Deakin University itself would make academic life more immersive and convenient.

Jo, what led you to study as a mature-aged student, and how did you find the experience of studying at Deakin at the time?

After completing year twelve I worked and travelled in Australia and overseas all through my twenties. But once I turned thirty I decided it was time to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a writer. It felt like a real privilege to study at a tertiary level, it challenged me in many ways, broadened my outlook and gave me opportunities I would otherwise never have had.

Most of the other students were much younger than me and had come straight from secondary school so my experience of university was probably quite different to theirs. Sometimes being mature-aged did have advantages, for example I had more life experience to draw on which is useful in creative subjects like writing and visual arts.

While studying for my degree I got married and had two children (Tea used to go to childcare on campus when she was little). I was full-time for the first two years then studied part-time to finish my degree. I studied Professional Writing and Visual Arts from 2001 until 2007, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in April 2008.

Tea, how does it feel to you going to the same university as your mother?

Ever since I was a kid, I had wanted to go to Deakin because that’s where Mum went to uni. I remember going to daycare there as a child whilst Mum attended classes, and it has been such a central contributor to discussions around education growing up.

Whilst my university experience varies quite a bit from Mum’s it still feels like I’m following in her footsteps. She worked incredibly hard at university and got amazing results, and so I hope to make her proud by completing university at Deakin to the same standard.

Jo, is there a favourite memory from your time at Deakin that you’d like to share?

Some of my favourite experiences from my time at Deakin were:
Getting to meet people from the publishing industry and listening to authors read their work in the Deakin bar, learning scriptwriting with Virginia Murray, co-editing Deakin’s literary journal Verandah, being granted membership to the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2002 (an unexpected but welcome acknowledgement of my efforts) and, of course, graduating.

What made you want to study writing?

Tea: I had wanted to study Creative Writing at Deakin specifically since year 10, after my English teacher had recognised and appreciated my work. After a few years of not writing for fun, her confidence in me reignited my passion for creative and critical writing, prompting me to complete some research into specific creative writing courses.

Deakin’s course in particular was so diverse, and the intense skill-building, array of topics covered, and multi-industry specialisations had so much intrigue to me. I want to study creative writing in order to explore various methods of storytelling, because I believe that storytelling is a fundamental aspect of life, and I’m intrigued to further explore the various mediums that can present storytelling.

Jo: It was my childhood dream to become a writer. I’d always loved to read and I first started writing in primary school. When I was selected by my school to attend a creative writing program for gifted children the seed was sown!

Who is an author that inspires you and what’s your favourite piece of writing of theirs?

Tea: The author that inspires me the most at the moment is Colleen Hoover. Every novel she releases captivates me in a different way, and her writing style is so insightful yet accessible. My favourite novel by her is 'Reminders of Him', her newest release, as it explores a niche aspect of suffering, but does so in a manner that allows any reader to relate to the characters and what they endure. It provides the reader with feelings of longing, hope, fulfilment, and grief, and she always manages to create a story that is completely unlike any other – which is likely why her novels have immensely grown in popularity in recent months.

Jo: I am inspired by many authors around the world but I do like to support local Australian writers, some of my favourites are: Hannah Kent - her newest novel 'Devotion' is sublime. The way she crafts language leaves me in awe. Karen Viggers - her knowledge and love of Australia’s wild landscapes illuminate her writing. In her characters she captures the deep connections between people and wilderness. My favourite Australian poets are Chloe Wilson and Brendan Ryan.

Tea, congratulations on being one of our Residential Leaders for 2022! What made you want to take on this role, and what does good leadership look like to you?

I wanted to make the most of my time living on Res, especially as a first year, and I figured that being an RL would allow me to meet lots of new people, whilst also getting to know the campus, res buildings and Burwood area. Sure enough, through my RL role I have made many new friends and feel so comfortable living at Deakin Res, and I am so grateful that I took the opportunity to apply for the role.

To me, good leaders are people who encourage others to embrace their talents, and who help initiate collaboration and communication in communities. Leaders should be approachable, friendly, and optimistic, and should be good role models for everyone in their communities.

And what are you looking forward to most about life on Res?

Tea: I am most excited to meet more people, through events and functions that Res hosts. I’m also excited about taking classes at university in-person, and living so close to the campus, as the prime location will inspire me to study more. I’m looking forward to utilising Res and Campus facilities, such as study rooms, beautiful outdoor study locations, and also the networking and friendship building aspects of university and residential life.

I believe the longer that I live on Res and near campus, the more I will challenge myself and push myself further in my studies and my desired careers.

Jo, what has your career journey been like since finishing your studies at Deakin?

As a creator, writer and artist often the career journey doesn’t follow a straight path.
Since leaving university I have been published as a poet (Poetrix 29 and Pre-Scribe 2 & 3), sold paintings, co-edited Baw Baw Writers’ Network anthology, illustrated a children’s book, contributed artwork for a local theatre company, taught creative writing and learnt printmaking. I’m excited to see what the future brings!

Tea, where are you hoping to go in your career after finishing your studies at Deakin?

I hope to be heavily involved in the arts after finishing my studies at Deakin. Ideally I would like any work in the film industry, in areas such as acting, screenwriting, or working with, behind, or in front of a camera. I would also like to do creative writing as a long-term career, such as novel-writing, fiction storytelling, and even songwriting.

I do believe, however, that to pursue creative writing as a successful career involves lots of life experience, which I hope to gain throughout and after university. I definitely want to publish at least one novel, and hopefully many more throughout my lifetime. As long as I’m doing jobs within the arts industry, I will be very happy, and that’s ultimately what I want to be after finishing my studies at Deakin.

Jo, helping to choose where your children study and live when moving out of home is a big decision. What was it about Deakin and Deakin Res that sealed the deal for your family?

It was Tea’s decision to go to Deakin and her Dad and I were happy to support her. I’d really enjoyed my time at Deakin, I remembered the student support being very good and the courses were interesting, relevant and connected to industry.

We were a little nervous about Tea living on Res but once we’d done a tour and asked lots of questions we were impressed. It was more like a resort than student housing and it was reassuring to know that there was good security and options for friends or family to visit if they wanted to.

Tea has moved in to Deakin Res now and seems to be in her element. We see her embracing new opportunities, making new friends and thriving. I think the next three years are going to be some of the best in her life and as her Mum that makes me happy.

Thanks to Tea and Jo for sharing their Deakin experiences with us, and we’re delighted to have Tea as part of the Residential Leader team at Deakin Res!

If you’re an alum who lived on Residences at Deakin, we’d love to hear and share your story too! Please fill out this form to share your story, or contact us directly on

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