When Year 11 student, Manon Maund, was a 9-year-old she and her mother spent a year living in a tiny medieval village in the south of France.

“I just fell in love with the landscape, the language, the food and traditions,” she recalls. “Everyone seemed to have such a deep sense of connection to the past.”

The area was traditionally a silk-weaving centre and Manon remembers some of the old mulberry orchards.

“Most of the houses had cellars too,” she says, “and skeletons from ancient conflicts were still occasionally found.”

Manon quickly learned to express herself in French, but her grammar and sentence structure were clumsy.

This year, as she continues French Language as a senior student, her grasp of grammar has inspired her to consider studying French Language, History or Music in Europe in the future.

Alongside French, her Year 11 subjects are Music Performance, English Literature and History of Revolutions.

“Because I can speak French well, I’ve been pretty relaxed about it over the last few years,” she says. “Arriving in Year 11 was a wake-up call that I needed to really nail the grammar.”

As something of a perfectionist, Manon often finds it hard to get through all the work.

“I want to learn to prioritise better,” she says. “I’m getting better at discerning in class what I need to focus on and I talk to my teachers about this.”

Manon recommends ‘Quizlet’ as a great way to practice retrieving information. Quizlet is an App that uses digital flashcards as a memory aid for studying.

Manon has also played cello since she was in Grade 3.

“It’s the closest instrument to the human voice and able to produce everything from mournful to joyous sounds,” she says. “I’ve never heard jazz on a cello but maybe I should have a go?”

Manon has worked on Bach’s Arioso as part of her studies this year and says it has become her favourite piece.

She enjoys writing songs, would love to sing in a band and, when she gets some time, would like to explore contemporary music on guitar.

“Performing on cello makes me feel so vulnerable, but I find singing 100 times scarier,” she says.

“I’m proudest of being able to push through my self-consciousness—like when I was only 12 and sang with a friend at a spring fair. I’m so glad I did that because I felt so good afterwards. It’s about building resilience.”

Manon is a big fan of Aussie indi/folk/pop singer-songwriter Julia Jacklyn, someone she met briefly for a photo op, but someone she’d love to share a long walk with.

“I’d like to have a long walk and talk with her,” she says. “I’d ask her how she writes her songs.”

With more spare time, Manon says she would watch a lot more movies—especially French ones—and would indulge her love of cooking more than she does at present (Apparently Manon cooks a great cake!).

Manon loves living in Castlemaine with her Mum and is grateful to have grown up there. The only challenge is the train trip each day.

“It means I don’t have as much time at home and I find it hard to study on the train,” she says. “But it is good thinking time too.”

Manon had never attended a school as large as BSSC before arriving here, but says she always recommends the college to others.

“So many of my friends just love it here too,” she says. “The ‘bigness’ is something I like the most. It’s not cliquey and I like being more anonymous. I also love the relaxed atmosphere and not having to wear a uniform.”

She chooses words like ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ and ‘egalitarian’ to describe the college.

“Although it can take a little while to find your group, there are lots of opportunities and people to meet,” she says. “It feels more like a uni and I love being able to go into town between classes if I need a break.”

The Music Department has been a big positive for Manon.

“All those little rehearsal rooms mean you can always find somewhere to practice,” she says.

BSSC has not only been academically and artistically good for Manon, she’s also matured in unexpected ways.

“I’ve realised I can think about my thinking,” she reflects. “If you think you’re shit at something, it doesn’t mean you are. It’s just a thought.

“I overheard a woman on a phone one day who really nailed this. She was talking about someone else and said, ‘she thinks her opinions are facts’. It really hit me that opinions aren’t facts—just opinions that might change very soon.”

Manon says she has also become aware of not being so impulsive.

“Just because I want chocolate—which I love—does not mean I should immediately eat chocolate,” she laughs.

“If I could go back and give my 12-year-old self some advice, I think I’d tell her to say yes to as much as possible.

“Everything constantly changes so try to live every day. What happens today isn’t going to be for the rest of your life.”