What to do if university isn’t for you

Yasmine’s journey took her full circle from university, TAFE, back to higher education and doing what she loves the most — the art of arranging flowers.

@yasminefloristry on Instagram

The last thing Yasmine wants to be is a cliché. There was no formative experience involving a picnic at the Botanic Gardens, nor a childhood marvelling at her grandmother’s rose bushes. She specifically asks me not to mention that her name means jasmine — the flower — in Persian. She is wearing light blue jeans and a brown pullover with an embroidered flower on the right sleeve.

Yasmine and I first met in 2018, as co-workers at an office in Artarmon. Our desks stood at opposite ends of the building, separated by many lovely older workers, as well as a decades-old filing room I once rearranged by hand (if your boss ever asks how strong you are, feign back problems). Luckily for me, Yasmine’s desk was near the kitchen, so between microwaving my lunch and making coffees, it was relatively easy to manufacture reasons to cross paths. It was the start of my ongoing caffeine addiction, but at least I had a friend.

That was until Yasmine quit.

“I saw an ad for this florist, which is close to where I live. I had been following them on Instagram and I really liked them, so I just decided to apply,” Yasmine says.

Yet her path to floristry wasn’t straightforward. After high school, Yasmine enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University. She attended for a total of three weeks before realising she wasn’t ready, and ended up dropping out just days before the census date.

If not for the fact that her mother had worked at TAFE, Yasmine says she would not have been aware that a floristry course was even an option.

“I went to Willoughby Girls, and in Year 12 they definitely put an emphasis on getting a good ATAR. They also talked like university was the only option,” she says.

This is the reality for around half of school leavers, with 47.8 per cent of Australians under 25 currently enrolled in a bachelor degree. Worryingly, 19 per cent of undergraduate students had seriously considered leaving their current institution in 2021. For the record, you are allowed to keep your options open.

“I did floristry part-time, and that’s one day a week at TAFE. I still wanted to go to uni, I just wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I took some time first. I went back and did a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie, and I did international relations as my major, which I really enjoyed and found really interesting.

“I feel like I have a better understanding of a lot of things than I would if I didn’t go to uni, so I don’t regret it at all,” she says.

Yasmine finished at Macquarie this year, and she now works full-time at The Ivy League florist in Naremburn. Her colleagues have similar stories of finding floristry after leaving vastly different industries.

“We all have done something else and then switched over: one did finance at uni and then worked for PWC. Another of the girls was in events, and my boss did a bunch of stuff first,” she says.

“I think quite a few people in the industry did come from other backgrounds like corporate jobs, but that can actually really help, especially if you are business savvy.”

Part of that business acumen includes an immaculately curated Instagram page.

“Instagram is really huge for floristry. I think that’s how brides and customers find their florist. It’s like having a portfolio,” she says. I can not conceive of a more compelling advertisement for working in a flower shop than this.

“When I go into work and we are all just chatting, it just feels like you are hanging out with your friends. And working with flowers is really nice. Being surrounded by nature is amazing. It definitely isn’t all easy, and it’s not as romantic as it looks, but overall it is a really beautiful place to work.”

Yasmine tells me she needs to leave soon because she promised to walk her neighbour’s dog. 

“If there were other people in your position, unsure, possibly thinking about floristry, what would you say to those people?” I ask.

“I’d definitely say try out whatever it is. Typically people at uni are young, and while we are this age it is easier to take risks like that rather than when you’re older and maybe have more responsibility. It’s scary, but in a way, I feel like it is easier to do it now.”

“I’m definitely happy. I don’t know. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in ten years, maybe I will go back and use my degree. But for now I’m really happy.”