A classical singer who has been training since she was 10, Budwini Madagammana knew she wanted to study music as a double degree.

I am the first person in my family and close extended family to pursue a degree in the creative arts and social sciences,” she says. “I come from a family of doctors and engineers, so the idea of me doing a degree in music was quite novel to them. But I consider myself very lucky to have a supportive family that recognised my passion and skills.”

Budwini has just finished her Bachelor of Music and is completing her Science degree with a psychology major, which she describes as “such an interesting combination from the beginning”.

“UNSW was one of the few universities with the option of doing music as a double degree – apart from education. I came to the Open Day when I was in year 12 and I fell in love with the atmosphere and people. I knew I had to come here.”

The Bachelor of Music/Science (Psychology) has allowed Budwini to work with people in a range of faculties, including Law, Engineering, Arts & Social Sciences and Medicine.

“I was exposed to a diverse group of people and different ideals, which gave me the opportunity to be more informed and also grow as a person,” she says. “I feel privileged that I was able to experience university in such a supportive environment. I was constantly encouraged by not only my lecturers and tutors, but also my friends. Even though my two degrees were completely different, I had good support networks from both, which made my university life so much better.”

While at UNSW, Budwini has been in several music ensembles, including the Burgundian Consort, the Collegium Musicum Choir and the New Music Collective (NMC), to name a few. For her major project in her fourth year, she had a recital, called Rituals, Roots and Sentiments, which combined her western classical music background with her ethnic background (Sri Lankan).

“It was a very significant performance and I was very proud … I not only had a chance to acknowledge my cultural background, but also my grandparents, who flew in from Sri Lanka to see me perform for the first time.”

According to Budwini, some of the most useful skills she has learnt during her double degree came from collaborating with people.

“Group work is part of both degrees. It can be challenging, but there’s a lot to gain as well, both personally and professionally. When you’re working with people, you will always encounter communication, organisation, teamwork and leadership issues. But at the same time, you become better at communicating, handling stress and other interpersonal skills which are definitely beneficial for one’s personal and professional development,” she says.

Her advice to her younger self is to “trust myself and the process a bit more”.

“Don’t be afraid to push yourself to step out of your comfort zone,” Budwini says. “In my first year, I wasn’t a very confident person, and I was always finding excuses not to do things. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I started to realise I was missing out on a lot of things because I was thinking this way.

“My degrees, especially music, had a lot of amazing components that gave me opportunities to try new things. With the help of a few special people at uni, I started to put myself out there and embrace every new opportunity that came my way. Now, if I am faced with a novel or difficult situation, I know I have enough confidence to overcome it.”

Budwini says that moving out of your comfort zone starts by changing your mindset.

“Taking your time and taking one step at a time is the best way. Even though it might seem like the most daunting thing, it’s important to remember that taking the first step is the hardest part.”

She lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, until she was 13, when her family moved to Sydney.

Growing up, I wanted to become a lot of things, but recently I developed a passion for fields related to environment and sustainability,” she says. “After I graduate in 2020, I am hoping to find a position in an organisation like Greenpeace or AAEE [Australian Association for Environmental Education] and do my Masters in Environmental Psychology.

“I want to combine my two passions to create something unique. I am still trying to figure it out, but I think if I can do this, I can use my skills and talents to do something really good in the world.”


Emma Followill