On the night of October 14th 2022, Year 12 student, Sneha Gosai, recalls the awful wait as the Campaspe River peaked in her home town of Rochester.
“Our house is between the river and the weir—the river overflowed and the weir broke,” Sneha recalls.
All of this happened overnight, masking it even more frightening for Sneha and her family.
“When the water started coming down our street I got really scared,” Sneha remembers. “Mum and Dad and my sister were really stressed and I remember going to bed to try and escape the anxiety … and I actually slept.”
The decision to stay or leave was made based on the predictions that the river would not rise higher than it did in 2011—but of course it did.
Sneha and her family were the only ones still in the street, which added to the stress.
“Our house is built on stumps so it sits higher than some others,” Sneha says, but the water still came all through our house.
“We’d put our furniture up—including our beds—on tables and benches, but all the floor coverings were soaked. The water got to the top of the skirting boards.”
As soon as morning came the family began ripping up carpets, but their house was like an island; the entire garden submerged.
Many people in Rochester are still awaiting repairs and Sneha says there was a real need for much more support in those early days and weeks.
“I was well cared for by my family and my teachers, but it all happened right on the brink of Year 11 exams,” Sneha says. “I actually missed a couple of exams, but made it to school for the most important Year 12 subject.”
While last year’s floods had a devastating effect on Rochester and surrounds, Sneha says there have been some positives to come out of the situation for she and her family.
“I think we’ve become more aware of caring for each other and our mental health,” she says. “We still have some small reno’s to do to the house, but so many people have had it far worse.
“Some houses are still just like a shell you can see through.”
Once Sneha started back at school, she travelled by bus as trains were unable to get through. These days she’s back on the train and uses that hour to either begin her homework, or have a much needed break.
Sneha loves the choice of subjects at BSSC and the diversity of people at the college.
“There are people from so many cultures with so many different views,” she says. “The LGBTQI+ community is well-supported and there is a genuine acceptance of diversity.”
Sneha joined the Student Leadership Team (SLT) not only to make a contribution, but to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, about her new college.
“SLT is a great way to make friends,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to the formal!”
Sneha was born in Fiji and came to Australia at just two years of age when her family emigrated.
Her great-great grandparents moved from India to Fiji many years ago in search of work on sugar plantations and the hope of a better life, but many family members remain in Fiji.
“My father brought us to Australia because he was worried about the increasing political unrest in Fiji,” Sneha says. “He felt Fiji was no longer a safe place for his wife and daughters.”
Initially staying with family in Melbourne, the Gosais moved to Rochester when Sneha’s father found work there.
The family’s first language is Fiji Hindi and Sneha didn’t learn fluent English until she started school.
In Year 9, she attended a three-week program at the John Monash Science School attached to Monash University.
Studying Year 10 at Catherine McCauley College, Sneha was taught by what she describes as a group of “strong, highly-intelligent women” who became important role models both as teachers and mentors.
One woman she never got to meet is her grandmother who, according to family stories, Sneha greatly resembles.
“I would love to have a converstation with her,” she says. “Fiji is very male dominated and everyone says she was a very strong woman. She sounds so cool!
At BSSC, Sneha has had predominantly male teachers and says they’ve been terrific. She’s especially appreciated the support and guidance of Brenton Heyward.
“I’ve made so many significant relationships this year at BSSC, new friends as well as teachers who are so supportive and encouraging,” Sneha says.
While Sneha is coping with the workload of Year 12, de-stressing is an important part of her routine, and that means time with people she loves—her friends and family.
“Unwinding is about time away from the stress,” she says. “I will take a whole weekend if I really need it.”
Long-term Sneha is planning to study Medicine or Dentistry and thinks she would like to live in Melbourne for a while.
Naturally she will miss her family and is grateful to her parents for the way they have brought her up.
“I see families where there are so many rules and expectations on the kids and the emphasis is not so much on positive relationships,” Sneha says.
“We have grown together over the years and there’s great respect. We can talk about anything.”
More personally, Sneha looks back over the past few years and recognises how much she has grown as a person. She explains how Covid really impacted her confidence and remote learning put a strain on friendships.
“I made an active choice to be happier, and it worked,” she says. “Others responded to my smiles and willingness to make contact, and life got much better.”
So, what advice would Sneha offer her younger self if she could travel back through time to those pre-secondary school days?
“Brace yourself—so much will change in the next four years. Who you are and who you will become are very different people. Let it happen … let yourself grow into, and through, the changes.”