Year 12 student, Nerissa Short, had always thought she would study medicine.

However, in the Christmas holidays between Year 11 and Year 12 she saw an advert for a local writers’ workshop and thought it might be a bit of fun.

“At first I just couldn’t get my writing going at the workshop and then, like an old sport you’ve just come back to, it all returned… I rekindled my life-long love of writing and realised I wanted to become a journalist. Basically, I spent five dollars and changed my academic career!”

Having already chosen her Year 12 subjects, there was a period of slight panic—actually Nerissa admits to a “meltdown”—as she examined her subject selection. But a meeting with a BSSC careers counsellor revealed there was a way through to studying journalism.

BSSC has worked well for Nerissa.

“The way this college is set up makes it a great stepping-stone because it’s not super-controlling,” she says. “I guess some kids abuse that, and I have even changed friendship groups over this issue of commitment to my studies.”

Nerissa is the eldest of five siblings, an animal lover and, in the past, swam competitively. However she also carries an invisible challenge: serious back problems that provide ongoing lessons in coping with chronic pain.

“The other thing that really didn’t help my back was getting rear-ended on my second-ever night drive on my ‘L’s,” she reflects. “So, although I have a really cool story about why I can’t pick up my backpack, I also have to do daily Pilates and see a physio regularly.”

“So swimming is now part of my pain management plan, but I still have my Bronze Medallion and volunteer with the Anglesea Life Saving Club in summer.”

Nerissa also works 20 to 30 hours a week at KFC.

Asked who she admires, Nerissa names Emma Watson… but with this caution: “When I was younger I used to idolise people and then be really disappointed. So I don’t tend to have idols anymore… but people like Emma Watson are speaking out about issues I’m concerned about.

“I also think young people now are very open-minded. Many of them use social media in really positive ways.”

Nerissa is a self-confessed ‘book nerd’. Asked to pick her favourite book, she named A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith. She describes the book as “an intense read.”  Given that some members of Nerissa’s family are from South Africa, this author/story is not such a surprising choice.

And what of aspirations to become an author herself? “I have thought about writing a book,” she says, “but I’m not really sure I want to.”

If Nerissa could go back to when she was much younger, and give herself some advice, it would be this: “Don’t worry about what other people think of you.

“We had moved here to be closer to my grandparents. But I had a really hard time in Year 7 due to bullying. It settled down and I feel like I carved a niche into an unwilling situation. I’d also been teased about my clothes when I was in Year 5 and never wore those purple overalls again.

“Now I wish I had gone home and asked Mum to sew an extra length on the legs of those overalls so they would last a few more years!

“But I would not change anything… you always learn something from every experience.”