It comes as no surprise to learn that BSSC Year 11 student, Sara Hill, names French as her favourite subject.

Sara followed in her sister’s footsteps, choosing to study French by Distance Education when it was not available in her secondary college. She then successfully applied for a six-month student exchange to France.

Last August Sara travelled to the south of France and returned home at the end of January this year, ready to start Year 11 at BSSC. Her enthusiasm when talking about the exchange experience conveys how valuable the trip to France has been for her.

“I had never been overseas before and although I had been studying French, I really couldn’t speak or understand it very well,” she says. “Now I can hold a conversation and understand virtually everything that is said to me.”

Never having travelled overseas before made the experience all the more exciting—and terrifying—as Sara hoped that she and her host family would get along well. She need not have worried.

“My host family were great,” Sara says. “I had three host ‘siblings’ and went to school with them every day.”

Unlike Australia, school runs from 8am until 6pm, but students have Wednesday afternoons off. This was something of a highlight for Sara who often used the time to head into the beautiful city of Toulouse to hang out with her new friends and other exchange students also staying in the area.

“Coming back home, I was pleased to be going to BSSC,” she recalls. “It was like I had made a break from my old life and wanted something new to look forward to. I was a bit nervous, but compared to the exchange experience, it was not that scary.”

Now that she is settled into her study program, Sara is still loving French—which has been made so much easier by the language immersion she had in France.

“Although I learnt to speak and understand the language, I’m now getting a deeper understanding of French grammar,” she says. “For example, there are at least 10 tenses of language. I went to France only confident to use past, present, and future.

So is the future looking French?

Well, maybe. Sara would love to return to France for another extended exchange while she’s at uni. Though, her plans to study Speech Pathology or Physiotherapy may make this less likely.

“I looked into the options and these courses offer short-term overseas programs—none in France that I could find. But there is one to Africa and French is the major language of some countries there.”

In the meantime Sara is enjoying the diversity of people she’s met at BSSC and the variety of subjects she’s able to study.

But there is one more hurdle that Sara faces. She lives in Kyneton and that means commuting by train and early starts.

“It can be quite a challenge some days—I’m definitely not a morning person—but, compared to France, the actual school day is much shorter, so I guess I shouldn’t complain,” Sara laughs.

Sara’s personal approach to her studies is to try and do as much work as she can in class to reduce her homework.

“At home I tend to study in ‘bites’ in the evening with music going and have been told it’s not the best way to learn. But it seems to be working for me so far.”

Music is also Sara’s key for unwinding.

Her biggest challenge at BSSC so far has been sorting out which maths subject suits her best—a problem now sorted.

Looking back, Sara regrets that she didn’t take science more seriously at her 7-10 college. If she could go back and give herself some advice, it would be, “Keep your options open—study science!—because it will help you in the future when you will want to do PE as a 3/4 subject and physio or speech as a career.”

BSSC’s breadth of subject choices have allowed Sara to include her love of dance alongside her more purely academic VCE subjects.

Sara had been dancing for eight years. She started with Jazz and added both Classical and Contemporary as she developed. Now, so she can concentrate on her VCE, Contemporary dance is her only focus. However, although Sara is not planning a career revolving around dance, she expects it will always be a part of her life.

Piano has also figured highly for her although she no longer takes lessons which, she says, allows her to sit at her piano and enjoy trying to get something right without there being the extra pressure to have the piece ready for a lesson or exam.

So Sara’s life is busy. Despite this, when asked to reflect on the wider world, she names global warming as her number one international concern. And she names Greta Thunberg as an inspiration.

“So many people don’t seem to realise it really is a big deal,” she says. “And it feels like the student protests across the world have been largely ignored—what else can we do?”