Dr Angela Tjeuw can’t help but laugh at the memory of her patients’ reaction when she told them she was leaving general practice to study radio.
“They thought I was becoming a radiologist,” Angela chuckles.
“I said ‘No, I’m leaving to do RADIO. Broadcasting.’”
“They were like, ‘Huh?’ They were completely confused. Understandably. Because it’s not really the norm.”
Which begs the question: Why DOES a GP in her mid-forties end up studying for the Graduate Diploma and Radio and Podcasting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS)?
“Yeah, it’s not an obvious trajectory,” says the mum of two, revealing that Covid lockdowns were a big factor in her decision to take a giant leap of faith – and chase her dream.
“I’d been a GP for the last 15 years. We went into lockdown and homeschooling. I started thinking – what was it that I wanted to be doing with the next phase of my life?”
“I think general practice is really rewarding in terms of being able to look after families and helping people, but it also leads to a lot of fatigue.”
“I asked myself: Is this how I want the next twenty years of my professional life to be?”
Angela says she’s always had a very creative side.
“That kind of got parked for a long time, doing medicine.”
As Vietnamese refugees, Angela says her mum and dad saw security in a medical career and encouraged her to follow that pathway.
“What I really loved was the stories that patients would bring. Hearing about their life.”
But living through a pandemic tends to bring a new perspective and, like so many of us, Angela reassessed her priorities.
“When lockdown happened, I was like, there’s this side of me that hasn’t really had full expression.”
“I’d kind of reached where I could go with medicine in terms of general practice. It wasn’t challenging anymore.”
In recent years Angela had started singing as part of a choir. She began using her voice more and decided to explore the possibility of doing a course in voiceover work.
“An ad for AFTRS came up,” Angela remembers. “It said you could learn to become a broadcaster through the Graduate Diploma in Radio and Podcasting.”
“I was like: Oh, I didn’t know you could study to do that. I just thought you had to be in the industry or know someone.”
“Being in medicine, I didn’t know anyone in that realm at all.”
Angela bursts out laughing at the memory of needing to submit a talk break as part of the application process.
“I didn’t even know what a talk break was!”
“I had no audio equipment. I didn’t even know how to put that together. I had to set up my own home studio. I had to write my own script.”
“I was like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing but if I get in, it’s a sign!’”
“The reason I chose radio was because Mum always had the ABC on in the car and, going back and forth to school, I’d hear all these voices on the radio. That was my way of connecting to Australia.”
Accepted into AFTRS, Angela initially juggled her studies with her GP duties, before deciding to commit fully to her radio dream, and see where it takes her.
“So for the last 18 months I’ve been fully immersed in doing AFTRS.”
Angela says the best way to describe the way she felt at the beginning of her broadcast journey was like a snake that had shed its skin.
Her studies included an internship at Sydney’s 2GB, giving her a taste of what working in the industry is like.
“I found I really like being on air. I like interviewing. I like connecting with listeners.”
She also found producing was a natural fit. “I guess all the years of general practice mean that you’re good at problem solving and timelining things.”
But Angela admits editing audio wasn’t exactly her strong suit.
“I didn’t realise how technical it was. The first week (we were using) Pro Tools. I was like ‘What. Is. This. PROGRAM?!” she laughs.
“By the end of it, we were editing commercials, we were making sweepers, we were doing station IDs.”
“I never thought I could do any of that.”
Currently, Angela is working on a documentary podcast with fellow AFTRS students called I’m at a Crossroad (listen to trailer here).
Due to drop November 2, the series explores life’s ultimate plot twists and – in many ways – echoes Angela’s own personal story.
Six guests talk about a major crossroads decision they’ve had to make, including one who left their corporate role to go on a campervan to travel around Australia while making a podcast, and another with post-natal anxiety, who checked themselves into a psychiatric unit to get help.
Angela says the AFTRS experience has given her the confidence to step outside her comfort zone.
“The AFTRS lecturers have been really supportive the whole way through. Giving us direction and guidance, but also technical skills.”
“We get feedback from people who are producing shows right now. It’s been really good having those insights into what our working life might look like when we finish.”
Angela says AFTRS has given her a solid foundation.
“I don’t know that I’d have had the confidence to enter a completely different realm without what AFTRS has offered.”
And in doing so, Angela has set an important example for her two young daughters.
“I wanted to show them that you can pursue what you’re interested in, and while you may not know the outcome, as long as you put the effort in and do your best, that’s all anyone can ever ask of you.”
Applications for the 2024 intake of AFTRS Graduate Diploma in Radio and Podcasting, Full Time and Part Time, close on November 7. Scholarships are also available. There is a free Ask Us Anything Session on Thursday 26 October with broadcaster Sian Gard. Book here.
*Main photo: Angela at 2GLF in Liverpool, where she co-hosts a Drive show on Fridays – 3quirksandaturk
*Bottom photo: At Wollongong on Sea Cliff Bridge when Angela interviewed guests for 2NRS broadcast for AFTRS, focusing on the Illawarra region.