Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

The enigma that is Stephen Quinn, Cultural Scholarship recipient

In the past, 19-year old Stephen Quinn has been nicknamed “the enigma,” and it seems to suit him. Because with him, what you see is really only a glimpse of what you get.

For example, you might not know that every time he comes across a homeless person, he likes to sit down and have a smoke with them – just so they know they’re loved. Or that he is the youngest of 12 children (which he describes by saying, “You have no siblings and 13 parents, and as you get older, you slowly but surely get more siblings until you only have two parents.”)

You also might not think that someone doing a double degree in Economics and Advanced Maths at UNSW would be the recipient of a Cultural Scholarship for his musical talent – however there you go! Stephen can spin a tune on the guitar, violin, drums and saxophone, but his main claim to fame would be the piano, which he started playing in Year 3. By the end of primary school he had completed all eight grades; between Year 9 and Year 11 he used to wake up at 5am to get in a few hours’ practice before school; and in Year 11, he took two accelerated HSC music subjects.

“Dad got me into it,” says Stephen. “He saw my talent, and he tried to help me see that. And it was good – he did – but at the same time it was a cause of some angst.”

“Music back in the day was a requirement because dad was an army musician, so it was all about duty and practice and stuff like that,” he continues. “It wasn’t really a passion until I graduated and started to play on my own. I mean, my favourite thing to do now is just sit down and whittle away some time playing random stuff on the piano… Now I’m grateful – it’s amazing how much your view can change in hindsight.”

While it sounds like music will always play a part in Stephen’s life, the focus for the upcoming years is somewhat different. With a passion for maths and economics as well as teaching, he’s got it all planned out: he wants to go into investment banking, statistical analysis and consultancy work before going back to university to get a Masters in teaching, and then become a high school teacher.

Before then however, there’s plenty to keep Stephen occupied. He loves to read (current book being the fourth title in a fantasy saga); he refers to Netflix as a constant drain upon his study; and he enjoys playing footy as well as arguing for the sake of arguing (a recent personality test called him a ‘debater’). He dislikes everyone being glued to their phones but admits that he can be the same; he would love to visit Ireland one day for its natural beauty and fun-loving people; and he’s keen to one day learn a language – probably Spanish or Cantonese.

And another fun fact? Stephen’s not afraid to admit that he is partial to a romantic comedy: “I dig the chick flicks,” he says, giving special mention to The Vampire Diaries, Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl.

As for what inspires Stephen, it comes back to family – especially his dad. “It’s something that I’m starting to realise more and more:  I base the majority of my personality, my talents, the majority of my life, around my family; the fact that I’m the youngest. All these siblings have given me all this second-hand experience that’s kind of turned me into the person I am. And the reason why my family’s so close is because dad has kind of brought us all together… mum and dad. Even though he did rule with an iron fist, he just had a capacity for love and forgiveness that I look up to a lot.”