Student Council Secretary, Eky Smyth, began Year 11 at BSSC in 2017 as an international student who knew nobody.

“My Dad actually went to Bendigo High School back in the 1960s,” she said. “When I told him I wanted to study overseas, he immediately recommended BSSC.

“Of course, it was scary at first—I was not just going to a new school and meeting new students, but was immersed in a whole new culture with different attitudes to life. Indonesian people can be quite conservative but I appreciated how open and welcoming Australians were. I have many friends now and many staff have helped me over the last 12 months.”

Eky’s own experience no doubt has inspired her passion around issues of inclusion.

”I noticed last year that people tended to stay in their own groups a bit. I hope that the programs and plans Student Council have, such as the buddy system and the new Inclusion Ambassadors, will help everyone see how much we all gain when we take time to get to know new people.”

Eky brings experience from her 2017 role as Youth Ambassador with Bendigo Health—an impressive achievement given this was her first year in Australia.

While she acknowledges that her new role as Secretary of Student Council will involve a lot of keeping minutes, managing advertising and raising awareness through various platforms, Eky is hoping the experience will also foster leadership skills and create new contacts right across the college.

Given her passion for inclusion, it’s no surprise that Eky’s is also driven by a sense of social justice and human rights.

“I have a deep appreciation for the connection that all humans share—whether they recognise it or not. I am very concerned about xenophobia and global issues of injustice, but I try not to get angry about it. I think anger can make you brash and give you tunnel vision.

“Meditation is a key thing for me. I also love poetry. I’m reading the works of Rupi Kaur at the moment. I also enjoy Korean pop music known as K-Pop. BTS or Bangtan Boys are a band I admire because they address issues that are sometimes taboo in Asia, such as mental health problems.

“And I like to laugh, especially at dad jokes and puns. My history teacher makes dad jokes and I’m the only one who laughs!”

When asked what advice she would give her 13-year-old self Eky’s response is, “Breathe! Don’t let societal pressures get to you. Life is more than ATARS and going to uni.”

Looking to the future, Eky hopes to study International Relations.

“In Year 11 Global Politics, my awareness of world issues really increased. This year I’m studying History, because I think you need to know the background to issues to be able to understand why present events are happening.”

Eky’s advice to students is simple but potentially life-changing.

“Talk to people you don’t know. Go out of your comfort zone to understand. And don’t be scared of strangers… a smile rather than a frown can make such a difference.”