In March, when the reality of COVID-19 really started to hit us in Australia, our boarding students were told it was time to make plans to go home. For some, that meant lengthy air travel, for others it was just a quick trip to a neighbouring state. Either way, no one was sure that they’d be able to get back to Victoria when restrictions lifted. In talking to four different students approaching remote learning from four very different places, it’s interesting to see how much of an effect the Boarding House has on students and the way they can approach change and adapt in dynamic circumstances.
Derry in Year 11 flew to Shanghai, China following the March announcement. She packed up her things and booked the earliest available flight to begin the long journey home.
“It was a very unusual journey,” said Derry. “At the airport, people were armed to the teeth using many ways to protect themselves from coronavirus – masks, glasses, medical coveralls – one man was even in a raincoat in lieu of protective clothing!
“The flight was the most memorable I’ve ever had. Temperature testing was taken at boarding and repeated throughout the flight. When the plane landed, we waited in the cabin for three hours as airport personnel sterilised the whole plane and let us off in batches to be taken to a temporary COVID-19 testing site.”
For our other Grammarians their trips home weren’t nearly as eventful. Lorie from Year 10 has remained in the Boarding House throughout, whereas Eliza in Year 9 travelled across the border to Blighty, NSW. Gracie from Year 11 returned to Darwin, NT and while the restrictions at the airport were minimal, Gracie reported that the abrupt trip home was quite strange.
All students are now participating in remote learning – Lorie even doing so from the Boarding House with other Grammarians who have chosen to stay.
Gracie in Darwin has always been a diligent student, and remote learning has allowed her to be more responsible and accountable. “Remote learning has showed me my capabilities of getting work done away from school. I’ve learned to fully understand the importance of taking time out from my schoolwork to introduce balance,” said Gracie. “My way of staying motivated has always been my mindset of wanting to get the best results I can, in remote learning this hasn’t changed but it has had its challenges.”
As a new student of Melbourne Girls Grammar, Eliza was only just learning the rigour of the routine when she had to move to remote learning. “This experience has taught me to not be afraid to ask questions and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone. With the amazing support of my wellbeing coach, my teachers, the Boarding House staff checking in and my friends, it has made the experience easier.”
For Derry in Shanghai, the distance from Melbourne means every day she has to deal with the 2 hour time difference. “I need to get up at 6.00am every morning, and soon when Melbourne switches to summertime that will be 5.00am – which is hard for me as a night owl!”
The restrictions vary greatly between locations. Derry in Shanghai reports that life is largely back to normal, apart from masks, and she can hang out with her friends as she pleases. Lorie in the Boarding House, while she has company from other boarders and staff, still has to comply with Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions. For Gracie and Eliza in rural Australia, Eliza has been able to play netball weekly in a local team and can visit cafes and salons, and Gracie is able to attend gatherings with minimal restrictions in Darwin.
For all our Grammarians, they’ve adapted to their new normal adopting new ways to stay on track and remain healthy and happy.
“Before coronavirus I wasn’t very arty, but now I’m taking two art subjects and I’m always up to date with them because I enjoy them so much,” said Eliza. “Taking these art subjects has also pushed me to do art in my free time, and I want to continue long after the coronavirus settles down. I’ve also taken up golf and spend lots of time at the tennis courts.”
In the Boarding House, Lorie still has plenty of company to keep her on track. “Separating my working area and entertainment area has been the best thing for me,” said Lorie. “Because I live with my friends, we encourage each other to complete our work. The Boarding House ensures we stick to our routine and every evening I can finish off my work in a quiet environment. Then the staff and resi’s organise activities for us. I love it when we go to The Hub to do yoga.”
Derry in China has learned that time management above all else is what’s helping her keep up with her classes. “This experience has forced me to make a change, and I’m much better at time management now. When I take a break from study, I love going to a jazz class.”
While remote learning has been a struggle for some, others like Gracie have thrived in this new environment. “I like working from home. I like the independent nature of remote learning and the minimal distractions of home. I am really enjoying spending more time with my brothers, walking to the beach and watching their soccer games. This is the longest I’ve been around them in the four years since I started at Melbourne Girls Grammar in Year 8 and it’s been really special.”
Excepting Lorie who has remained in the Boarding House, all the students are adjusting to life at home, which is indeed quieter than what they’re used to.
“I only lived there for two months, but I miss the Boarding House so much! I miss baking and working with my friends and the fun we had there,” said Derry.
“I miss everyone, but especially Nindhi (Year 9),” said Eliza. “She was my roommate and made the experience a lot easier for me. Nindhi would check on me every day and make sure I was okay, this is what made my boarding school experience so easy and comfortable.”
“The thing that I miss most, apart from friends, would be the routine of the Boarding House and school,” said Gracie. “Another thing that I miss is also the social aspect from the Boarding House, not just the girls, but the constant support and checking in from staff.”
As Term 4 quickly approaches, we’re all hoping for a return to onsite learning and the chance to reconnect with friends in the Boarding House. We’re so proud of all our Grammarians for the obstacles they’ve had to overcome and the strength and determination they’ve shown in dedicating themselves to their studies while balancing their wellbeing.
While we hope that we’ll never have to overcome Stage 4 restrictions again, it’s comforting to see how well our students have managed under the circumstances. We can say with certainty that our Grammarians can overcome anything they set their minds to.