Last November Elouise Wilby took off for Germany—the fortunate recipient of a ‘Scholarships for Australian-German Student Exchange’ (SAGSE).

She arrived home in February this year with a couple of weeks of Year 12 work to catch up on and incredibly grateful for an experience that was enormous fun, matured her as a person, and built her self-confidence.

More about this remarkable experience later…

Elouise is enjoying BSSC. She describes the college as “open”, “supportive”, “full of options” and she loves the numerous quiet study places that make getting homework done so much easier.

“I recommend this college,” she says. “It’s excellent preparation for university—where I’m heading after a gap-year.”

Meanwhile, Elouise is studying German Language, English, General Maths, Biology and Classical Studies.

Her favourite depends entirely on the topic—and right now Biology is particularly interesting as her class explores the remarkable systems of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

The study methods that work for her are around retrieving information. She uses old exams, SACs, and practice questions to ensure key concepts and vital details are locked in.

Like many students, Elouise gets stressed at times and finds talking through her feelings with friends and family helpful.

“They always encourage me; I feel lucky to have this support.”

Reading and watching movies helps keep life in balance—Elouise loves a good rom-com.

“My favourite movie is ‘About Time’ and I’m presently reading a romance called, ‘Love Theoretically’.”

Playing soccer for the Strathfieldsaye Colts—her preferred position being ‘striker’—gives a complete brain-break too.

“Soccer is such a tactical game—you have to give it your full concentration.”

While she knows she wants to study at tertiary level, Elouise hasn’t yet settled her long-term career goals.

The idea of taking a History major in Arts, with a view to museum curation—or a Psychology major, and moving on to become a psychologist, are hot options.

The third is Elouise’s dream job: to be a writer, either through journalism or becoming a novelist.

Meanwhile, in 2025 she plans to return to Germany and explore much more widely across Europe. Clearly this plan is grounded in her enjoyment of the SAGSE exchange.

Elouise’s host-family live in Munich, where she was warmly welcomed. She attended a local gymnasium—the highest-academic level colleges in Germany.

Elouise loved the more prescribed approach to education used in Germany.

“Everyone has to do around 15 subjects,” she explains. “I liked not having to choose: I actually think I prefer the German system to ours.”

School was just one part of the SAGSE experience. Students also had to organise and spend a week travelling with other exchange students—a great way for students from different countries get to know each other.

However, that week, one of the main rail companies happened to be on strike.

“Everything we’d planned went down the drain,” Elouise says.

She and her (new) friends found some trains were still running, but on completely unreliable timetables.

Sometimes they waited for hours at railway stations or simply caught whatever train came along—and booked accommodation on their way to totally unexpected destinations.

It made Elouise realise she could manage this kind of travel by herself. It was a massive confidence-builder—and a huge amount of fun.

Making new friends was a major highlight of the exchange and she believes many of these friendships will last. There will be some reunions very soon, when the German host students come to Australia in June.

“My host-sister, Helena, will be staying in Perth, but we will catch up at a camp in Apollo Bay. I think the German exchange students will probably go surfing!”

Perhaps the reason this exchange happened at all can be tracked to a particular teacher, Frau Steen, who taught Elouise German at BSE.

“She was strict, but kind, and so inspirational. It’s because of her I loved studying German—and I’m so glad I kept going with it.”

In fact, the idea of going overseas is a long-term dream and Elouise says she’s proud she held onto her dream and took the step to apply for the SAGSE exchange.

Despite her preference for the German system, Elouise still insists she’s enjoying BSSC and is really pleased with how well she’s doing—although she admits, Year 12 is “definitely harder”.

More personally, it is Elouise’s parents who most impress her and for whom she is deeply grateful.

She’s noticed how hard they work to give her and her siblings a comfortable lifestyle—and how accepting and open they are.

“We have these wide-ranging discussions and debates about all sorts of things.”

These conversations have taught Elouise values about listening to, and respecting, other ideas. They have also sharpened her concern for the intolerances she sometimes observes.

She wishes people were simply more accepting and, in a nutshell, nicer.

“Social media can be so judgy: I wish people realised you don’t have to agree on everything to get along.”

She’s also noticed she’s much more willing to stand up for what she believes in, which for someone who was a very shy child—a real follower—is a great achievement.

Given the opportunity to give her younger self advice, Elouise would say; “Be more confident NOW.”