Ballerina’s university wish granted through Charles Sturt’s online study pathway

25 JULY 2023

Ballerina’s university wish granted through Charles Sturt’s online study pathway

From the dance studio to the great outdoors, ballerina Ms Valerie Tereshchenko has proven it’s never too late to try something new.

Studying, performing and mastering the art of ballet for 25 years, the Ukraine-born ballerina took on a new challenge by studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management with the help of Charles Sturt University’s online study options.

Valerie’s journey through tertiary education hasn’t been easy, for multiple reasons.

“The Australian Ballet does almost 200 shows per year, so rehearsing, preparing and performing takes up a lot of your time and energy,” Valerie said.

“I have studied in studios and dressing rooms in theatres across Australia, sometimes listening to lectures as I do my hair and make-up before a show, sometimes doing readings and writing assignments during intervals of shows, but mostly a lot of post-show late night studying.

“There have been some tears when I have had assignments due in busy show opening weeks when you are at the theatre from 11am to 11pm every day.”

Valerie’s career to date has laid a sturdy foundation for success at university.

“Luckily, ballet has made me very disciplined, good at time management and sticking to a routine,” she said.

“I am good at making myself do things when I don’t necessarily want to, however the hardest has been allocating Sundays, which are our one day off a week, to study catch-ups instead of seeing family and friends.”

This discipline began in her first year after moving to Australia when she was six years old.

“I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. My mum, dad and I immigrated to Australia because of the uncertainty and turmoil after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991,” she said.

“I feel so lucky to be in such a prosperous and democratic country now where I have been able to attain a life I would never have had in Ukraine, but also extremely devastated by everything that is now happening in my birth country.”

Valerie’s mother took her to her first ballet class when she was seven, at a church down the road from their home.

“We didn’t have much support or financial resources when we first came to Australia, but my parents did everything they could to give me a life with more possibilities than they had, and I’m forever grateful to have a family who sacrificed so much so I could pursue my dream of studying ballet,” she said.

For much of her ballet career, education took a back seat, and diving back in was a scary thought.

“You make a lot of sacrifices growing up being an elite athlete or performer, including sacrificing time with family and friends, and just the ‘normality’ of being a kid without regimes and schedules for training, but most of all I sacrificed a good education,” she said.

“I loved school, but the demands of ballet meant that I had to commence full-time dance training at age 12.

“For three years I did my schooling through Distance Education Victoria before joining The Australian Ballet School and doing my academic studies through the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS); however, the subjects we were required to do were not enough to qualify for university.”

Despite this, years later, Valerie’s passion to take her studies further prevailed with support from Charles Sturt University’s Elite Athlete and Performer Scholarship, and online study options.

“I have enjoyed and felt completely welcomed into university life without having stepped foot on campus once,” she said.

“While I would love to spend some time on campus one day, it has been so important to me that I have completed half of my degree while still being able to rehearse, perform and tour with the Australian Ballet.

“Our routine, families, work and support systems are important to us and the flexibility this degree allows is indispensable.”

While Valerie said she has had some doubts along the way, it’s all paid off.

“I truly wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time and money on studying an environmental science degree until last year when I received the Executive Deans award,” she said.

“In ballet, you put in a lot of hard work all the time, but that hard work doesn’t always lead to the roles you want or any external rewards.

“To have put in the work and then receive an award as a result of that work kind of shocked me, and I was surprised by how good it felt.

“I genuinely love learning environmental science so although I wasn’t sure if it was the right path, I have loved the experience and I look forward to transitioning from ballet to this new field of work after I graduate.”


Media Note:

To arrange an interview with Ms Valerie Tereshchenko, contact Jessica McLaughlin at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0430 510 538, or via

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