An Australian student pushes through the pandemic

Lara Tupper, a senior in nutrition, from the Gold Coast, Australia, was chosen to be the speaker for the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior — despite COVID-19 sending her back to her home country.

For Tupper, the American college experience was more appealing than the one she would have received in Australia. She said American college focused more on community and sports, which interested Tupper because of her love for tennis.

“When I originally came to America, I went for the tennis experience. College in the U.S. is different than it is in Australia. Here [in Australia], we usually live at home and commute daily. It’s more community-based in the U.S., and sports are a way bigger thing in the U.S.,” Tupper said. “Like, we don’t do scholarships for that over here. To experience a new culture and play the sport I love sounded like a good idea.”

Tupper played on the SIUE tennis team while she was here. Nutrition instructor Cindi Inman had Tupper in several classes and knows her well. Inman said Tupper did a great job juggling both being an extraordinary student and being an athlete. 

“She focused on time management well,” Inman said. “I was a student-athlete when I was in college, too, and I can certainly say her time management was way better than mine.”

Tupper said her secret was figuring out what work was most important, and doing that first. 

“You just have to prioritize what you want to achieve and also have a bit of a social life,” Tupper said. “It made me busy, but I prefer to be busy, and as long as you prioritize, it’s okay.”

Assistant Professor of Nutrition Kathy Mora said Tupper is not only a very friendly person, but she is also modest.

“She is probably one of the friendliest people. I don’t think she could even cut anyone off in traffic, but at the same time, she’s so humble,” Mora said. “I’d have to ask her if she won the tennis games when she’d be in class. I’d say ‘Did you guys have a good game?’ and she’d say ‘Oh yeah, we won by a lot.’ She’d never really talk or brag about it unless someone asked.” 

Mora was close with Tupper as well; Tupper worked on Mora’s research project as an URCA assistant. Mora said the project focused on teaching high school athletes about the importance of nutrition through social media. Mora said Tupper brought her positive personality to the project and she was a great part of the team. 

“I’ve written recommendations for her, and I’ve had to write on her for URCA,” Mora said. “I tried to nominate her for URCA assistant awards. I feel like she’s a colleague and a friend, frankly. She’s more than a student. We’re peers and colleagues.”

According to Inman, Tupper was an exceptional student in her classes, even after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Tupper to return to Australia.

“I’ve had her a lot in the past, but I also have her now this semester. Since he’s had to stay in Australia, I record the Zoom classes that I do with other students, and I post them for her, because it would be like four in the morning for her when we meet,” Inman said. “I suppose she watches them right when she gets up in the morning because she’ll email me pretty quick if it’s not up on time.” 

Tupper said she tries to be positive in most aspects of her life, and she was very appreciative of her instructors being accommodating to her.

“I guess I try to be positive in most areas of my life. I feel like being positive is the best outlook. Complaining is never the best,” Tupper said “I really loved the nutrition faculty [at SIUE]. They had a great impact on me and they were kind and caring to the situation of international students. At least, they were to me.”

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