Rachel Kee is the first international student to finish the University of Southern Queensland's Bachelor of Aviation.
Rachel Kee is the first international student to finish the University of Southern Queensland's Bachelor of Aviation.

Breaking barriers to fulfil dream job in the skies

RACHEL Kee was told growing up that becoming a pilot was something only men could do.

It only spurred her on.

She left her home in Malaysia at 19 to move to Australia and realise her dream.

The Boeing 737-800 simulator was launched at USQ’s Springfield campus in 2017
The Boeing 737-800 simulator was launched at USQ’s Springfield campus in 2017

Ms Kee is the first international student to finish the University of Southern Queensland’s Bachelor of Aviation.

“Aviation degrees are very uncommon in Malaysia and I really wanted to have a higher education, which is why I was keen to move to Australia and study what I love,” she said.

There are more than 300 students enrolled in the degree this year and USQ is the only university in the southern hemisphere to have two flight simulators.

The Boeing 737-800 simulator was launched at its Springfield campus in 2017 and the Airbus A320 arrived in Toowoomba last year.

Ms Kee studied at the growing Springfield campus and will graduate later this year.

“While moving to a new country was daunting at first, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience than studying at USQ,” she said.

“The aviation program allowed me to not only develop an understanding of the aviation industry and connect with real pilots and industry professionals, but also provided an avenue for personal and professional development.

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“I particularly enjoyed getting my hands on the university’s Boeing 737 simulator during my first year of university.

“But aviation is much more than taking off and landing a plane.

“My degree taught me other important aspects such as management, organisation, airline safety and security.”

She knew despite all the blood, sweat and tears put into completing her degree, the challenges being faced by the aviation industry due to COVID-19 would throw up significant hurdles to finding work.

“I was open to any opportunity to get my foot into the door, so I applied for jobs every day and refused to give up,” she said.

Three months after completing her degree she was offered a job as a compliance officer at Archerfield Airport.

“I was fairly surprised when I got the job offer,” she said.

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“I thought I might be waiting until the sector started to return to normal before I would find a job, but I’m very lucky and grateful.

“I really enjoy my job and having an important role in making sure the airport is a safe environment for everyone.

“Additionally, I get to see planes and choppers fly in and out of the airport every day which is pretty cool.”

Ms Kee one day wants to become a commercial airline pilot.

“My father once told me that he wanted to be a pilot, which is what sparked my interest in aviation,” she said.

“Ever since then, I have been captivated by the thought of seeing the world from the left-hand seat of an aircraft cockpit.

“Once the sector bounces back, I would like to work towards getting my commercial pilot licence and maybe join an airline’s cadetship program to gain an air transport pilot licence.”

Although she is excited for her graduation, COVID-19 travel restrictions will stop loved ones from back home attending the special event.

It has been more than a year since she has seen her family and friends from Malaysia.

“Sadly, my family won’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony because of COVID-19, which is unfortunate because they have always been supportive of my decisions and letting me follow my dreams,” she said.

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Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.