Meet the Valedictorian: Q&A with Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) Graduate Benz Halog

Benz Halog
Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) Valedictorian 

What inspired you to study Occupational Therapy at UQ?

I always knew that I wanted to study at UQ because of the world-class education provided here however, I was quite unsure of what degree I wanted to study. I have a younger brother with Cerebral Palsy (CP), and there have been many allied health professionals who have worked with him who have had a positive impact on our family’s lives. I wanted to become an allied health professional because I thought that maybe one day, I could be that person for children and families like mine. I chose to study occupational therapy as I felt that it was the broadest option and so I would have many interesting pathways to pursue in the future, which I highly valued. I’m so lucky I chose occupational therapy because I just feel like it’s the perfect job for me – I can’t even imagine myself in another position now!

What has been your most memorable moment at UQ?

My most memorable moment at UQ was running the annual UQ Occupational Therapy Student Conference for final year students this semester. Organising this event was such a unique opportunity and a source of fun in such a hectic final semester. It was held on the last day of exam block and was also our cohort’s final piece of assessment, so the whole day felt like a celebration where all of us could be together and finish our degrees on a high. We have so many fabulous pictures of everyone at the conference (and the RedRoom afterparty) that I know I’ll look back on fondly in the future.

How did you manage to balance your study, work and other extracurricular activities?

I think that it’s important to take care of your wellbeing by doing activities that are meaningful for you so that you can feel rejuvenated to study or take care of whatever else you have on your plate. For me, I found that playing team sports every week meant that I always had a designated time to see my friends who could fill up my energy cup, which meant that I could feel refreshed to buckle down and really focus when I needed to. Using Google Calendar helped me plan my weeks so I could always include some fun in my life (which is so important!) while making sure I had more than enough time to study and complete assessments. Balance is key, so I always make sure that I don’t sacrifice my happiness and the things I enjoy by over-working myself.

What drove you to become such a high achiever?

I haven’t always been a high achiever. I remember in my early uni days, my friends studying other degrees would say stuff like, “I had a really great lecture today, it was so interesting”, and I was just so confused because I couldn’t relate to liking lectures or school in general at all. I think things turned around for me when I really started understanding what occupational therapy can do for people and I became intrigued and wanted to learn more about it. I felt really inspired by the brilliant academic staff who had achieved so much in their careers and eventually realised that if I tried my best, maybe I could do that much with my life too! It was this realisation that changed my perspective on uni and motivated me to work hard and take in and try out as much as I could during my time here. I truly started loving what I was studying, which made putting my everything into the work I did feel natural.    

Would you like to share any major obstacles or hardships you have overcome throughout your studies?

I didn’t start out studying occupational therapy, I started in a pharmacy degree at UQ straight after I graduated from high school. Ultimately, the profession wasn’t the best fit and I could not see myself as a pharmacist long term. It was devastating, because as someone fresh out of high school who just wanted to be finished with school and graduate as soon as possible, changing degrees meant I was going to have to start all over again. I felt like I had wasted two years of my life but now, in hindsight, I can see that it was the best decision I have ever made. In the long run, two years is nothing and there is so much I learnt in my pharmacy degree that has helped me in occupational therapy. On top of that, I don’t think there’s a job more perfect for me than occupational therapy, so it all worked out in the end!

What are you most passionate about?

I have found myself becoming passionate about promoting human rights and wellbeing, and I love being able to help others through occupational therapy. I know that my education and specialised skills are really powerful tools and I look forward to being a strong advocate to enable all the people and communities I work with, using my new skills as an occupational therapist!

What do you believe it takes to become valedictorian?

I think passion for what you do as well as a love for your peers and the people you work with is important. For me, this passion and love really motivated me to get involved in as much as I could during my time at uni. Saying yes to being involved in leadership and research opportunities not only aided my study, but also helped me build meaningful connections with my cohort and the academic staff who greatly influenced who I am today!

What does being awarded Valedictorian mean to you?

Being awarded valedictorian was completely unexpected, and it’s not something I could have ever imagined for myself a few years ago. I absolutely love what I study and what I do, which is a testament to my amazing peers and the academic staff who have immensely inspired me throughout my degree. This is my greatest accomplishment to date. It still feels unbelievable, and I feel so humbled and lucky to have been recognised with this honour.

What advice would you give future UQ students?

Make the most out of your experience at uni because you can really get as much out of it as you put in! Say yes to new uni opportunities, no matter how unfamiliar or daunting they may seem. Make lots of amazing friends, join clubs, nominate yourself for leadership positions, pursue research opportunities, do everything you feasibly can to be in new spaces and meet new people. I feel like opportunities have the tendency to snowball and have found that one little yes has put me in future positions I could have never dreamed of!

What’s next for you after graduation?

I am going on a big Europe trip with my loved ones to celebrate my graduation, then I will return to begin my new career as an occupational therapist next year! I don’t exactly know where yet, but I’m excited to see where I end up working clinically and I’m keen to pursue further research or teaching later in my career too.

Learn more about UQ's Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours).
Last updated:
11 December 2023