What keeps Brighton moving ahead.

What keeps Brighton moving ahead.

Brighton Cai is used to going the extra mile. As a high school student, he travelled every day from his home in Sylvania to the Glenaeone Rudolph Steiner School in Middle Cove. The daily commute, on public transport, was one and a half hours each way. But he says the experience was worth the long trek to the other side of Sydney. 

“It was a good high school, he says. “It taught you different values. I remember we were required to go hiking and camping every year. And depending on the program, it would be up to two weeks or a month out in the wild. Those camping trips gave me a sense of independence. I had to get things done without the help of supervisors or teachers. It was a big influence for sure. I learnt you just have to keep going.” 

A real-life degree 

Now in fourth year of his Bachelor of Engineering Honours with Diploma in Professional Engineering Practice at UTS, Brighton began his study pathway with a Diploma of Engineering from UTS College. Engineering is a good fit for Cai’s practical nature and determination to get things done. “Probably because of my high school experience, I like to be more hands on and out in the field,” he says. “Not many careers provide that as far as I can see. Most of them tend to lead you straight into an office because technology is taking over so many things. Engineering is one of the few degrees out there that, depending on your role, you can go out and do real life exercises on site.” 

The transition to uni life 

He found the UTS College experience was a great way to transition into uni life. “The Diploma of Engineering subjects were similar to UTS,” he says, “but there was extra support. It wasn’t like being thrown in the deep end when you have no idea what uni is like. They sort of ease you into it. So it was a bit like high school in some ways, but at the same time there was a lot of independence.” 

Brighton says there were other benefits from his experience at UTS College. “I decided to take the extra step and do a little bit of volunteering. It wasn’t that much really, but it was enough to make good connections. Through the volunteering and the extracurricular activities, I’ve got to know a wider circle – other volunteers and staff members. It opened things up.” 

After completing his diploma, Brighton went straight to second year of his UTS degree. He says, “It was straightforward. I didn’t have to repeat anything. The only thing I was unsure of was where all the buildings were – the study method and all that were exactly the same.” 

Adapting to a different way of learning 

One thing he hadn’t expected was the sudden need to switch to online learning last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So at the beginning of the 2020, I literally did two weeks on campus, and then everything went online,” he says. “It really took me by surprise.”  

Brighton learnt to adapt to the different way of learning. He says, “There’s good support from your tutors, but I think you need to try to keep yourself motivated as much as you can. A bit of self-study goes a long way as well. If you’re not the sort of person who can concentrate for two hours, make sure you flick over the notes they provide on UTS Blackboard, or Canvas. You know, do something in your own time, or even just call a mate who does the same subject. You can study together over the computer. At the end of the day, you find your own method.” 

Building a future 

When Brighton considers what it would mean to reach his potential, in terms of his engineering career, it’s about developing rich experience. “I know, with engineering it takes a really long time for you to be properly recognised,” he says. “It’s around ten years or so before you become a chartered engineer, and from that I’d like to create my own consulting firm or go into a construction company. And then I think I see success as being able to leave a legacy for my family in the future.”