In early 2017, recently returned from a student-exchange in France, a nervous Tilly stood at the Macedon railway station waiting for the train to bring her to Bendigo for her first day at BSSC.

“None of the students from my 7 to 10 college were going to BSSC and I had missed Step-Up, she says. “I stood there reassuring myself that if I could cope with a student exchange—where I made so many fabulous friends—then I could manage this new start at BSSC.”

Serendipity intervened; in the shape of a young woman Tilly barely knew (even though they went to crèche together!) who was also waiting at the station and also on her way to her first day at BSSC.

“We just clicked,” Tilly says.

By the time Scout and Tilly walked into their new school to begin VCE they were well into their first new friendship.

“We also discovered how friendly the environment is at BSSC,” Tilly says. “Other students invited us to join their groups and now we have this fantastic bunch of friends.”

This year Tilly is studying English Language, Chemistry and Maths Methods as well as Psychology and French. She is also in the Student Leadership Team and thinks it’s cool that this group actually gets things done. Naturally the Formal is a major highlight of the year.

After VCE, Tilly’s long-term plan is to study Psychology, probably through a double degree in Psychology/Criminology at RMIT. She also plans to take a gap year; keep working at Mr Café in Macedon for six months, before heading off travelling.

Her decision to aim for a Psychology degree is grounded in her studies at BSSC.

“I initially chose the subject with very little awareness of what it actually was about,” Tilly admits. “It just sounded really cool. Once we got deeper into topics about memory and cognitive development I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome’.”

Psychology teacher Isobel Houghton is Tilly’s all-time favourite teacher.

“But, I could name so many teachers I’ve really appreciated here. BSSC’s been so good for me.”

Asked for a study tip, Tilly laughs.

“Don’t ask me! Ask my friends who are really good time-managers. I’m a terrible procrastinator. Once something is running late, I get all worked up.

“I guess the flip-side is that I’m really good at taking time for myself, which every student needs to do—but just not as much as me!”

So ‘don’t procrastinate so much’ might be advice Tilly would give to her younger self. But perhaps just as important, she identified the tendency of being worried about what other people think.

“You don’t become a better person by changing yourself to please others,” she says. “You need to be yourself—and this is not an excuse to be awful or racist—it’s about being true to your own best self.”

Unlike most students who come to BSSC from local secondary schools, Tilly attended the school established in Macedon by Australian author and educator, John Marsden. Tilly explains the school’s philosophy as being about letting everyone make the most of their education through individual investment, a really varied curriculum, innovative approaches to learning and a lack of hierarchy.

“We had things like catch-up Maths sleepovers that really made catching-up fun.” she says. “And, something I hated at the time was spending a few minutes every afternoon cleaning up after ourselves. In hindsight, I can see how much I learnt about respect for keeping your surroundings tidy.

“The teachers felt more like friends—which is something I also love about BSSC,” Tilly says. “In France the school culture was more formal and regimented and you had to address your teachers using titles of respect. I did worry that BSSC might be like that—and I’m glad it’s not. I think you become much more engaged with the content when you’re comfortable with your teachers.”

One subject Tilly has a very positive connection to is French Language. She achieved a 46 last year in 3/4 French as a Year 11 student. Yes, she had to work hard, and yes, she had a wonderful teacher in Marie Boulanger.

“I had a huge advantage,” Tilly says. “I’d not only studied the language for a number of years, I’d also just spent a year completely immersed in all things French.”

So what is it about French, and France, that has captured Tilly’s heart?

“I really love the sound of the language and I love speaking French,” she says. “And France is a beautiful country, which I discovered when I visited for a few weeks in Year 9.

“It didn’t occur to me to do the exchange until a friend suggested it. At the time I was actually wanting a big change. So I sent in my application only about ten days before the closing date. I was lucky to get in.”

Having done some travel has added to Tilly’s perspective on global issues.

“There are so many problems—of course global warming is a big one that my generation is increasingly aware of—but I also hope that people do not get distracted from other problems that we need to address. Big problems like racism, family violence, refugee abuse and homophobia.

“When I was in Toulouse,” Tilly says, “we did a school project on Australia’s response to refugees. My teacher and the other students were horrified by what we discovered. I felt the same way.”

Tilly admits you can’t fight for every cause, and believes it’s important to choose something you’re passionate about and really focus on it.

“Like Greta Thunberg. She has made this choice to speak out against Climate Change and is giving it her all,” Tilly says. “Anyone who tries to raise awareness about anything that needs to change is someone I admire.”