Early one morning at the end of January in 2019, Yasmin Matthews stood on the Gisborne railway platform waiting for the Bendigo train so she could begin her first day at BSSC.

With her was the only other student she knew—a good friend who was also making the move to the senior college an hour or so up the line from where they lived.

As they waited, Yasmin realised that three primary school friends she had not seen since Grade 6 were also catching that train.

It was the beginning of her new ‘tribe’. Now in Year 12, Yasmin is a seasoned train traveller and these friendships make the commute the social highlight of her day.

Until the coronavirus lockdown.

“We’re all missing that time together and my only option now is to use different social media platforms to keep in touch,” Yasmin says. “Sometimes that’s just a check-in, other times it’s a longer face-time catch up.”

Yasmin’s natural love of a challenge and experiencing new things not only emboldened her to change colleges, it was the motivation for a short-term student exchange in Japan, and the completion of the Kokoda Trail in 2018.

She took on this adventurous challenge through Bacchus Marsh Grammar with a group of Year 10 students.

“Going to Papua New Guinea and walking that trail really opened my eyes to how privileged I am,” she reflects. “It made me much more grateful for simple things we take for granted—like running water and flushing toilets and the variety of foods we can access.”

Many Australians, in Yasmin’s opinion, don’t appreciate just how privileged they are.

While she has noticed the extra kindnesses that people are extending to each other and the way most of us have stuck to the rules in the midst of the pandemic, she also notices that issues related to global poverty have been overshadowed or completely forgotten.

“Global poverty is such a huge problem,” she says, “and even more so now because of the pandemic. Every one of us needs to do our part to try and change it.

“Even if that is just giving up a couple of coffees each week so the money can buy something somebody desperately needs. You can pass on your privilege to another person.”

Yasmin also calls for perspective.

“It’s so easy for me to forget that my problems are actually not that big,” she says. “I need to remind myself that the way this pandemic is impacting on me is not the end of the world—especially compared to the way it’s impacting those who are poor.”

Yasmin is also disturbed by the way some people are reacting negatively, and even violently, to being locked down during the pandemic.

“I read something about the Spanish Flu—about how the second wave was much worse than the first—so I think the lockdown is really wise.”


Yasmin’s cultural experiences, particularly the visit to PNG, have not only impacted her understanding of her place in the world, they have also played a part in inspiring some of her future aspirations.

While she is still not finally settled on a pathway, she recently discovered that ANU in Canberra is now accepting applications based on Year 11 marks. Yasmin plans to apply for their Bachelor of Development Studies.

She will also apply for the Navy Gap Year program about which she has heard fantastic reports.

Both these options offer the kinds of challenges and cultural experiences she’s keen to take on and may open up career paths that will allow her to travel and work in developing areas of the globe.

So what was it that drew Yasmin to BSSC?

“I wanted a new challenge,” she says. “BSSC really appealed, not only because it is solely a senior college, but because I felt it suited my style. My aunt works at BSSC, which was another plus.”

As it turns out, Yasmin was spot on. BSSC suits her down to the ground and she has been very happy—even though she made this momentous decision so hurriedly and so late that she didn’t get a chance to talk to her aunt before enrolling!

One of the biggest adjustments Yasmin faced in making the change was managing the freedom the college gives its students.

“It’s not just about being able to go down the street at lunchtime—although I’d been basically locked in between 9am and 3pm at every school I’d ever been to—it was that I was so used to conformity—everyone studying the same program, wearing the same clothes,” she explains.

BSSC is a place where Yasmin found the pressure to conform lifted and she appreciates the level of respect given to all student pathways and aspirations.

“At BSSC I realised there were art students and music students in my classes,” she says. “There were students not taking subjects I’d always assumed were compulsory.”

And if she does need to stay in Bendigo overnight before an early exam or SAC—it’s handy she has family living locally.

Much of what Yasmin enjoys about BSSC changed with the arrival of coronavirus, which also put an end to her part-time jobs—in a café, as a lifeguard and a swimming teacher.

But there have been some positives.

Confined to her home town, no longer taking extended commutes, and without the hectic weekend routine associated with her part time jobs, Yasmin has much more time for a whole raft of things that often ended up on the backburner.

“I always have breakfast now, and I’m taking more care to eat healthily,” Yasmin says. “I’m exercising on our home gym equipment—I almost never exercised before—and our family is regularly taking walks together.

“I’m also spending more time with my beautiful dog.”

And there is plenty of time for study.

This year her subjects are English Language, Legal Studies, Further Maths and Health & Human Development. She completed her fifth subject, Psychology 3/4, in Year 11.

She names English Language as her most challenging subject, but is loving her teacher, Kathyrn, and appreciating the effort all her teachers are continuing to make to support her with remote learning.

Asked for her key study tip Yasmin has a very clear message: Don’t overdo it.

“I don’t do heaps, but I do study effectively,” she says. “I do short bursts and then check that the information is really in my head—constantly testing my recall.

“My main revision style is flash cards. I’m always asking someone in the family to test me—I think that drives them a bit crazy, but it really helps me.”

Yasmin’s 7 to10 college taught study and revision techniques really thoroughly and she’s very aware that some students don’t know how to study effectively.

“We might get a similar mark, but they’ve almost knocked themselves out to get it,” she observes. “I think sometimes students are scared to do less. But it’s crucial to keep a positive mental state by living a balanced life.

“I also think sleep is really important—well it is for me.”

Yasmin even takes afternoon naps now and then to turbo-charge her focus.

So what advice would she offer her 12-year-old self?

“I think it would have been good to have understood back then that I needed to resist the feeling of needing to conform,” she says. “More than anything you need to be yourself.

“And don’t worry about what you can’t control, but do stand up for what you truly believe is the right thing.”

Yasmin admires those who do this—especially the young people who are not scared to stand up and organise the student marches to draw attention to Climate Change.

“They are trying to make the world a better place and I really look up to anyone who does that.”