Meet Hassan: Bachelor of Commerce (Honours)

Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) student, Hassan Andrabi, is a talented illustrator and music lover who enjoys learning and challenging himself. He is currently riding out lockdown in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, his home region.

His Melbourne journey

As a Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholar, Hassan’s experience with the University of Melbourne started in high school. The Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholars Program is an academic enrichment program designed to support high-achieving Victorian Year 11 and Year 12 students, and select secondary students living close to the New South Wales and South Australian borders.

Students who are a part of this program are guaranteed entry into the University of Melbourne, if they achieve a certain ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking).

When Hassan received his ATAR result, it was “a really memorable moment” in his life: he knew he had achieved guaranteed entry into the University and had conquered the challenge he set for himself.

“If I’m already working so hard in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), then I should just try a little bit harder and get that extra reward for my efforts by getting admitted into the best university in Australia,” says Hassan, reflecting on his thought process at the time.

Other than meeting the entry requirements, another challenge was deciding on what to study.

“My problem coming out of high school was that I actually had too many interests, and I didn’t know which one I wanted to focus on for my time at university. From that perspective, picking commerce was really good, because, first of all, it gives you exposure to a lot of different domains. In marketing, if you’re artistic, you get that exposure to graphic design and communication. If you’re mathematical, and you do finance, that gives you exposure to statistics, modelling and forecasting. If you’re more of a writer, then you can do management.”

Being able to select breadth subjects outside of commerce, as part of Melbourne’s unique curriculum model, allowed Hassan to cast an even wider net and work out exactly what interests he wanted to pursue.

Outside of academics, Hassan joined the Melbourne University Athletics Club; he thinks that clubs and societies are a highlight of the university experience.

“It’s a great way to meet a lot of different people who share the same interests as you, in a setting where you’re not doing anything academic, and you can just relax and have a bit of fun. That is an important part of university. It’s not all about studying and getting good grades. It’s also about getting a taste of becoming independent, meeting new people and following your interests.”

From commerce student to illustrator

Outside of his core field of study, Hassan used his breadth subjects to pursue and discover other interests.

“When you do get to university, while you do have to pick a main degree that you want to pursue, you also get to pick a range of breadth subjects, which can be anything that you want. For me, one of the breadth subjects was an architecture breadth, and it was a studio class.”

Using the knowledge from his architecture classes, Hassan started illustrating and discovered a passion for map illustration, otherwise known as cartography.

I found something really fascinating about illustrating maps. It’s really mathematical because it’s all about scale. Then there’s so much history in the cartography profession, and then on top of that it’s inherently artistic.

This new-found passion lead to an opportunity for his illustrations to be published in a fantasy novel.

“This passion that I discovered was just through a breadth subject I had taken, and it had nothing to do with commerce, but I took it because I was interested in illustrating. It was a really good outcome, because I got to illustrate for a book, and I got paid for it as well.”

Online learning

This year, Hassan’s learning experience has changed, with the transition to full-time online learning, however he has found this to be a positive experience.

He finds there are a lot of benefits to online learning, something he enjoyed even before the transition to learning from home.

“For me, online lectures have been really helpful, because when you’re sitting in a physical lecture theatre and you zone out for a bit, or you get confused by something and you forget to write something down, you’re playing catch-up for the rest of the time you’re sitting there, but with an online lecture, you don’t have that sort of problem. You can pause, you can rewind, you can play in double speed if it’s really easy for you. That sort of flexibility was really useful for me.”

Honours

Hassan is now in the fourth year of his degree, his honours year.  He loves the smaller class sizes and the self-directed research.

I am really enjoying the independence that comes with being free to pursue your own research ideas.

He’s spent his time learning from home focusing on his honours’ research, which centres around artificial intelligence.

“My research project is looking at how people in the financial markets look at a piece of news and how they interpret that news to make decisions about what trades they are going to make…I’m looking at making a model where you can teach a computer to read a piece of text, and figure out whether or not that text is positive or negative, then use that information to make a trade on the financial markets.”

His aspirations and advice to future students

It’s no surprise Hassan is interested in data science, and it’s clear he already has a talent in this area.

During lockdown, Hassan programmed his own app and created a website that maps Victoria’s coronavirus cases, using government data. At the time he created this, he couldn’t find data being presented in this way, so he made one himself.

For Hassan, data science is not only being about the data, but about how you present and communicate that information to people; it’s an area where he will be able to utilise multiple skillsets and combine multiple interests.

Hassan is also considering further studies in this area.

“I'm interested in pursuing a Master of Data Science, or further study with the Brain, Mind, and Markets (BMM) lab in the Faculty of Business and Economics. The BMM lab is a multidisciplinary lab with finance professionals, neuroscientists, and computer scientists. The multidisciplinary aspect of the BMM is really appealing to me – to my knowledge, there are few other places in the world that are similarly exploring synergies between these various professions.”

Hassan’s advice to other students is that, it’s ok if you’re unsure exactly what you want to pursue in the future. Discovering where your interests lie is a large part of the university experience.

“I would encourage you, when you’re picking your breadth subjects, to not pick anything that you think is going to be easy and don’t pick anything because it’s going to get you good marks. Pick something that you want to learn about or pick something that you don’t know much about and use it to broaden your horizons. That’s what’s going to help you figure out what you really want to do.”


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