Newly elected Student Leadership (SLT) Team Vice-President, Muhammad Khan, feels “very fortunate” to be a student leader.

Muhammad had been School Captain at Weeroona College, yet arrived at BSSC feeling he had no option but to fully commit to his school work.

However, during the 2021 Awards Night ceremony, listening to all the SLT had achieved, Muhammad realised the college had much more to offer than just a great ATAR.

“I realised I should have been part of it and decided to join for Year 12,” he says.

At the SLT training day in February, Muhammad also nominated for an executive position.

“During my presentation, I was thinking what a great job everyone else had done,” he remembers. “I was certain no one would vote for me… I didn’t even vote for myself.”

The team had other ideas. Muhammad laughs as he remembers his first response when his name was read out.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

He hopes 2022 will see SLT break the Year 12 Formal ‘drought’, strengthen connections with the wider student body, and see SLT more involved with the Careers Team—helping to promote career interviews, university open days, webinars and special events.

Meanwhile he is flourishing academically.

“BSSC is such a good learning environment,” he says. “I enjoy working with other students in class and the teachers are so helpful—constantly challenging me to do better.

“I’ve had many positive experiences and feel that BSSC is making me a better person.”

During Year 11, Muhammad accessed a series of free online lectures via Compass and used them to consolidate class learning and exam preparation.

“We’re so lucky to have free resources like Study Clicks, and Anki software that allows you to make your own online flash cards.”

Muhammad finds practice exams especially helpful for understanding key words.

To unwind he plays badminton and enjoys long-distance running—especially out in the forest which he says, “really refreshes my brain.”

Besides committing to SLT, the other big decision Muhammad made this year was to clarify his career pathway.

“Medicine is the right pathway for me,” he says. “I want to make a difference to people’s lives and I like to focus on the scientific side—the how and why of things. I feel like I’ve found my way.”

Muhammad had already selected Chemistry 3/4 and was delighted to realise his favourite subject is a pre-requisite for medicine.

He plans to study at Monash University next year—which is a long way both physically and culturally from the Punjab Province of Pakistan where he was born, and from New Zealand, where his family moved when he was nine.

Arriving in New Zealand, speaking and understanding quite a lot of English, Muhammad discovered the local Kiwi slang was almost impenetrable.

At school he began learning his third language, Maori.

Meanwhile, his mother-tongue—Urdu—which he speaks fluently, was no longer being formally taught. He cannot effectively read or write this language.

“When you lose connection to language you also lose so much connection to culture,” he says.

Still, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, won Muhammad’s admiration and he would love to meet her.

“The way she spoke to our hearts after the Christchurch massacre meant so much to our whole community,” he says. “I’d like to ask her about her motivation—how she became so committed to helping people.”

As the family prepared to move to Bendigo in 2019, when Muhammad was fifteen, his final day at school in New Zealand was made especially memorable when he was presented with an excellence award.

Arriving in Bendigo, Muhammad once again found himself thrown into a whole new process of understanding local slang, making new connections and finding his way around an unfamiliar area.

Despite these challenges, he enjoys a great relationship with his parents and younger siblings and appreciates his family made decisions with his interests in mind.

Cooking alongside his Mum, who creates delicious Pakistani cuisine, is one of his favourite ways to spend time away from the books.

When asked to name his most-loved dish, Muhammad laughs.

“That’s impossible! But I do love Mum’s Biryani and Nihari.”

As he gets older, Muhammad is becoming more aware of the growing division of opportunity he observes around the world.

He cites an overcrowded slum in Delhi, but even locally, Muhammad is conscious that not every BSSC student enjoys the kind of support and opportunities he has.

“I feel so bad for people who have no control over their day-to-day lives or future,” he says.

If Muhammad could go back in time and share some advice with his younger self, it would be around this sense of empathy.

“Think more about your actions before you take them,” I’d tell him. “Think about how others feel because of how you behave.

“And be more physically active. Have as much fun with sport as you can and stop being afraid to have a go.”