Connected Conversations | Breanna Papagni

Second-year occupational therapy student, Breanna Papagni, has always wanted to help others one-on-one so a career in health was a clear path for her. After an initial interest in public health, Breanna has now discovered the world of occupational therapy and hasn’t looked back since. In her downtime, you might find her at the UniBar or running her own luxury styled picnic business.   

Breanna Papagni

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Breanna and I am studying a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) at the University of Adelaide. I have just finished my first year, since it’s the first year that the University of Adelaide has offered occupational therapy. I was inspired to transfer into this degree because I’ve always had a passion for helping people live quality lives, and I love the idea of working one-on-one with patients to achieve this.

Building connections with people is another passion of mine, which is why I decided to start the University’s first Adelaide Occupational Therapy Students’ Society. I love building a culture within the occupational therapy degree, as well as with the other allied health degrees (physiotherapy and speech pathology). It brings us all closer and provides a sense of community. I wasn’t aware of how broad occupational therapy was when I started my journey but, with every teacher I speak to, another pathway in the occupational therapy career opens up and it inspires me to explore the profession even further.

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide for your studies?

I chose the University of Adelaide for a few reasons — one of them being that it is quite a prestigious university. I also love the fact that degrees at the University of Adelaide are recognised internationally, which is definitely a selling point for me as I am quite interested in international health and would love to see where my degree takes me around the globe. I also love the culture at Adelaide. I’ve found some amazing friends here and we all love socialising on campus because of the natural surrounds. We also love checking out the UniBar every now and again! It’s so easy to find your people at Adelaide, and even easier to find a place to socialise.

What has been your journey to get where you are today?

My journey to get where I am now has not been linear or straightforward. That’s not to say I haven’t had help along the way. Throughout high school, I faced a lot of challenges with my mental health and I started to lose inspiration for health and helping others. It was towards the end of my Year 12 when I was at my lowest point, but I wasn’t in it alone. My chemistry teacher recognised my struggles and went out of her way to constantly check up on me and let me get things off my chest. She opened my mind up to possibilities that I didn’t know were possible. It was only recently that I truly recognised the role she had played in my life. Without her, I would not be where I am today. She truly inspired me to pursue a career in health, especially one where I can help people one-on-one. During my first year at Adelaide, I studied a Bachelor of Health and Medical Sciences (majoring in public health). I originally wanted to use this as a pathway to get into medicine or paramedic science. I did try to a couple years to get in but, once I discovered occupational therapy, I never looked back.

Breanna Papagni

What inspired you to pursue a career in health?

Coming out of high school has really shown me what the world is like and how privileged I have been. In high school, things really seemed black and white but, coming out into the ‘real world’, has shown me that we have a long way to go, and pursuing a career in health is one of the many ways I can better the world, one patient at a time. This has also made me interested in social justice; however, before starting my occupational therapy degree, I didn’t think health and social justice were remotely connected. But, after listening to my lecturer, Emma George, in first semester, I realised that occupational therapists can play a huge role in this.

What do you love most about studying at the University of Adelaide?

What I love most about studying at the University of Adelaide is having the opportunity and resources to truly discover yourself and being able to flourish. I’m surrounded by students who want to better themselves and their future because, ultimately, we are the future. It’s inspiring knowing that the people around me are my future colleagues or even bosses! It makes me so excited to see what the future holds.

How do you think the University of Adelaide has helped prepare you for your future career?

The University of Adelaide has given me the opportunity to learn from people who have spent their lives in the occupational therapy field. All the lecturers have different experiences and have worked in different areas of occupational therapy. It helps me discover new pathways to explore when I complete my degree.

Breanna Papagni

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Something that most people don’t know about me is that I run my own business — The Palm Picnic Co. I started this business with my friend, Abby, and it’s been flourishing ever since. We set up luxury styled picnics and also do catering! It’s been so fun, and I’ve definitely had some teachable moments along the way that have helped me to communicate better. It’s probably one of my biggest achievements so far!

What are your top café/restaurant recommendations around Adelaide?

My top café right now is Community located in Lot Fourteen. It’s close to the Helen Mayo buildings where my classes are so, whenever my friends and I need a break, we always head up there for a coffee and a toastie!

What’s your dream job?

I don’t know what my dream job is exactly. Obviously, I know I want it to be related to occupational therapy, but there are so many pathways to choose from so I think, until I complete placements and speak to more experts in the field, I can’t choose! I am also quite interested in public health, working with the elderly and supporting people with disabilities to live a better quality life.

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