By Juulke Castelijn

Thinking back on my life in high school, I’ve realised that the best advice I’ve been given wasn’t some brand new piece of information I had never heard before; it was actually the words we hear again and again, and yet, at the right time, it clicked into place and actually made sense. So today, instead of trying to pass on three magic words that will turn you into an A+ student, I just want to share the best pieces of advice that were ever given to me, and hope that maybe they will make sense to you too.

The first came from a student, Aleisha Clark, who was Dux of the year 2013. When she gave her speech I remember thinking: ‘Wow, I would love to be her.’ I don’t remember if she said so explicitly, or whether it was just the message I had received, but it became my mission to do everything I could to take the opportunities the school had given us. ‘Get involved in the life of the school’ is a phrase we’ve all heard and will hear many times, but I only repeat it now because I too believe it to be so important. Looking back, my favourite school memories are from production and the choir, and they are among the things I miss most about high school.

The second piece of advice came from Ms Peel, my literature teacher. At the start of year twelve Ms Peel asked the class to write down what it feels like to be writing a good essay, when the words come naturally, and you are proud of your ideas. The idea was that instead of aiming for a score or grade on our final exams, we should aim for a feeling, the feeling of being an expert, of knowing you are doing well. In positive psychology, it’s called ‘flow’, where the skills you have perfectly match the challenge at hand. I’ll be the first to admit it certainly doesn’t always happen this way, especially not during exams, but when you aim for that feeling, and find the things that give you that feeling, I believe you will always achieve more than you originally think you can.

The final, and most important advice given to me came from my group of friends. We decided our motto for year 12 was going to be ‘no regrets’. Originally we meant it as a way of enjoying our final year at school together, but it came to mean something in my academic life too. The truth is, the happiest moment of your high school career shouldn’t be opening up your ATAR and seeing the score you wanted. It should be when you walk out of your final exam, head held high and feeling you did everything you could, no regrets.

That is the philosophy I will bring with me into the world of university and, yes, university exams. Maybe it makes sense to you now, maybe it will make sense to you later, or maybe you’ll forget about it and never think about it again. That’s absolutely fine. But I do believe that without these goals, to get involved, love what I am doing and have no regrets, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today, going to the university of my dreams and pursuing a career I am really passionate about. You are always more capable than you think you are, and if you find what motivates you, the hard work will always be worth it.

I wish you all the best of luck in 2019 and beyond. Thank you.