It seems BSSC Year 12 student, Jack Sides, has adventure running in his veins. His family are keen bushwalkers and he has spent many nights in a tent in the stunning Australian alpine wilderness that offers hikers great challenges, spectacular experiences and majestic views.

Asked if he has a favourite place, Jack insists it’s about the whole experience.

“I love being out in that environment and I’m so grateful that I have the fitness to do these things and experience such incredible places.”

In Year 9 Jack was fortunate to attend the Victorian Government’s ‘Alpine School’ for a term. This particular ‘adventure’ included a trip to China and part of the itinerary took students hiking through some of China’s unique scenery.

“It was so different to the Australian landscape and so great to camp out in that setting—although we did have to walk uphill for an entire day which was pretty challenging.”

Two years later, when Jack was in Year 11 at BSSC, he signed on for the Kakadu trip led by Dan Hurrell. There he discovered another kind of country so very different to anywhere he’d been before. This inspired him to elect Outdoor and Environmental Studies as part of his Year 12 program.

This year the class took on the challenge of the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in Tasmania—and Jack’s younger sister, who is in Year 11, was also part of the team. It was another fantastic trip that only added to Jack’s appreciation of the Great Outdoors.

But it’s the tropical environment which has emerged as Jack’s favourite—even though he really loves the snow and is pretty happy so long as he is outdoors.

However, there is another, very different adventure on the horizon for Jack’s family. They are heading to Nepal over the Christmas holidays to stay with an Uncle and Aunt in Kathmandu and, of course, head into the Himalayas for some serious trekking.

This trip is being squeezed in between Jack finishing his Year 12 exams and his move to China where he has a scholarship to study for a year at Shanghai’s prestigious Jiao Tong University. You can read more about the BSSC students awarded this scholarship in eNews:

“Now I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m really excited about returning to China,” Jack says. “I start uni in February, but I’ll probably go over there a couple of weeks earlier.”

Jiao Tong University is considered by some to be the best in China. It hosts many international students and Jack will live on campus with students from across the globe but believes he will be the only Aussie in this year’s intake.

To understand why Jack finds himself in this happy situation, we need to go back to when he was starting Year 7 at Bendigo South East College.

“I wanted to study a language and had a choice,” Jack explains. “I chose Chinese/Mandarin because I find China’s culture really interesting. I believe China will continue to have a big impact on the world… and I love Chinese food.”

Jack admits that any new language is hard to learn, but he finds the pictograms in Mandarin very interesting.

“Juncai (Lin) explained to us how their original forms were actually taken from real life. So the symbol for a tree used to very closely resemble a tree.”

So far, Jack has reached a point where he can communicate generally, but, partly because he does not use the language every day, he is expecting his up-coming immersion in Chinese language and culture will really step up his capacity.

In the meantime, Jack is enjoying his time at BSSC and says he is happy where he’s at with Year 12.

“I’ve had great teachers and all of them have helped me in their individual ways,” he says. I’ve really liked all my subjects and I love being in classes with other students who enjoy them too.”

Jack believes BSSC has “definitely helped him to prepare for adulthood—and particularly for university” partly because of the level of trust that is given to students to turn up and take their studies seriously.

“This college really suits students who are dedicated and wanting a more independent and mature approach to their education,” he says.

His study tip?

“Don’t panic! And if you do your preparation, you won’t have to panic.”

Jack’s advice to his 12-year-old self is along the same lines.

“I took myself a little too seriously when I was younger and I would love to go back and tell myself ‘you don’t have to be the best’ and ‘it’s okay to be laughed at or have a joke’.”

His advice to the world is twofold. First, he shares the same environmental concerns as so many other young people and believes the problem is not being taken seriously enough. Second, he raises a question about the way we presently debate issues in society.

“There seems to be a lack of respect for different points of view,” Jack says, “and some really really awful things are being said. And it seems that people who do this have the support of others in the ‘right’ (ie: powerful) places and get away with it.”

Still, Jack acknowledges there are some good things happening—especially the progress with technology.

“Being more connected and being able to get around the world so easily is great,” he says. “Though when I’m outdoors, I love not having a phone—being out of range.”

Jack has no definite long-term career goal as yet, but he knows that he would love to do something that gives him the chance to be outdoors and plenty of opportunities to continue to do lots of bushwalking and travelling.

“It would be great to have a job that takes me to the north of Australia—I just loved it up there.”