In some ways BSSC Year 12 student, Zahra Azimi, could be seen as an ‘old hand’ at new situations.

She arrived for her first day at BSSC with a great bunch of friends she’d made at Crusoe College and the awareness that her older brother had really enjoyed his time at BSSC.

“So, although I was a bit nervous, I was sure this was the right college for me,” she says. “I remember thinking we were all in the same situation.”

Zahra felt similarly during a much earlier transition she and her family made.

She was just 12 years old when her family moved to Australia from Afghanistan.

While her parents felt the wrench of saying goodbye to many members of the wider family, for Zahra it just seemed like “a great adventure”.

She doesn’t have extensive memories of her homeland, and though she would love to go back and visit family in Afghanistan and Iran, her life is very settled in Australia.

When her family first arrived, Zahra was enrolled in Grade 5 at Kangaroo Flat Primary School, right in the middle of the school year. She recalls being nervous, but was quickly made to feel at home, despite her English vocabulary consisted of just two words.

She chuckles as she recalls answering every question with ‘yes’ or ‘no’, without any idea what anyone was talking about.

“I think the reason I was able to gradually build a sense of confidence was that I had two really good friends who looked out for me,” she says. “When they weren’t around, then I was nervous.

“I would love to be able to go back and say to my twelve year-old self: ‘Have confidence in yourself. Take all opportunities that come your way. Things are going to work out really well’.”

Years 7 -10 were also a positive experience and Zahra recalls having good teachers at Crusoe College. Here she made the friends she is still close to today.

BSSC proved to be everything she hoped.

“I loved the breadth of subject choice and the amazing teachers,” she says. “They are so supportive and helpful.

“I love the freedom of an open campus and the opportunity to manage my own time. I can see how well I’ve been prepared for uni.”

Zahra joined the Student Leadership Team (SLT) and enjoyed meeting like-minded people who shared her goals. Sadly, coronavirus restrictions threw most SLT plans into disarray.

“I’ve been on the Events Committee,” Zahra says, “and we had to change so many of our plans. But I think the ‘Optimism’ video was one of the really wonderful things we did. I hope we sent a message reminding students to be optimistic despite all the challenges of the pandemic.”

When the second remote-learning period was looming, Zahra wrestled with optimism herself, wondering whether she could keep her motivation strong.

“It turned out to be fine,” she says. “I was soon happily into studying from home again and I’ve enjoyed the freedom to organise my time in ways that work best for me.”

Zahra has been studying Chemistry, Biology, Further Maths, English and Psychology this year.

Psychology may have been last on that list, but it’s definitely her favourite subject and Zahra’s Psychology teacher, Isobel Houghton, is someone she speaks highly of.

“She motivates us to do our best and to keep going,” Zahra explains. “Isobel makes the classes fun and knows how to create breaks where we can step aside and relax.

“It’s an incredibly interesting subject. I’ve been amazed how much our brain is capable of—without us even being aware of it.”

Despite her passion for Psychology, Zahra’s first preference for next year is a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Monash University. Though she doesn’t mind where she studies, so long as she enjoys the course.

Asked for a Hot Study Tip, Zahra says it’s important to give it your best.

“Keep going, even when it feels hard,” she adds. “You must look after yourself… never get too busy for a walk.”

Bendigo’s bushland is a go-to place for Zahra and her family. They enjoy bushwalking and it’s one of her favourite ways to take a study break.

She’s also a keen reader, but with all the reading that’s been required in 2020, she’s found it a challenge to get into books beyond her college texts.

Music, however, has continued to be a much-enjoyed part of her relaxation time.

“Just about any music lightens my mood,” she says.

Despite being so committed to her studies, Zahra believes it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the wider world.

She admires Dan Andrews and the way he has led Victoria through the pandemic crisis—including how willing he has been to say what needs to be said, despite constant criticism.

The Black Lives Matter campaign has also touched her deeply and she is incredulous that discrimination like this still occurs.

“I believe in respect for all people, regardless of their skin colour or background,” she says.