13 Feb 2023
Both were being awarded a Renouf Family Scholarship, for high achieving students commencing their first undergraduate degree.
Each had just started their studies at UniSC – Natalie in Paramedic Science and James (who had always been a Lego kid) in Engineering – and while there were sparks from the start, both say they were too “introverted” to do anything more than have a polite chat at the ceremony.
James recalls his intuitive mum being extra cheeky on the drive home afterward, with a few comments to the tune of “wasn’t she a nice young lady.”
Turns out, mum knew best. Today, Natalie and James are happily married (they just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary), even though Natalie says it took “two to three years” after the first fateful meeting for an official date.
“I was sending him Facebook messages, just chatting and being like, ‘I wonder if he's actually going to ask me out?’”
“I’m not even sure how it came about,” says James, “We just started talking again over a $5 meal at the UniSC Brasserie.”
And once the first date was out of the way, many more followed, with the cliffs at Moffat Beach becoming their favourite romantic spot.
After Natalie graduated, she got a job with the Queensland Ambulance Service in Murgon, a two-hour drive from the Sunshine Coast. James was still in his fourth year studying civil engineering at UniSC and completing an internship with a structural group.
“I was driving back and forth to see James and staying out in Murgon in a tiny, shared rental,” Natalie says. “Then after six or so months of doing that James asked me to marry him.”
Thanks to James’s skill with spreadsheets (he even colour coded all the venues they looked at), the wedding was engineered in time for their big day, just five months after he proposed.
But the couple almost never met, had fate not intervened. Natalie – a Toowoomba native – applied for scholarships from a couple of unis, trying to decide which one to go to.
“I thought, whichever uni I got a scholarship from would be a clear decision maker,” she says.
“The first one I received was from another uni, and I was disappointed that I didn't get the UniSC one. But then, about a week later, I heard from UniSC that I’d been successful, so I was excited. And having my living expenses covered by the scholarship meant I didn't actually have to get a job until I was ready, that I could actually focus on my studies in paramedicine.”
For James, a Sunshine Coast local, applying to UniSC was a no-brainer as he was keen to stay on the Coast. “Once I got accepted into the engineering program, I looked at applying for scholarship opportunities, though I didn’t expect to get one at all,” he says.
“I was really surprised to receive the Renouf Family Scholarship, but it made a big difference as I didn't have to work a lot of extra hours while studying. It just takes that pressure off. A lot of people don't apply for the scholarships because they think they're never going to get it, but just apply because – like me – you might be surprised.”