Class of 2020 – Francesca Charlwood

Joining the St Catherine’s community in Year 7, Francesca is to be commended for her contribution and commitment to school life. Francesca has held the 2020 position of Davis House Snowsports Captain, participated in Viva Voci, the Ensemble for the Senior School production Freaky Friday, GSV Softball, and is a committed and talented visual artist.

Hear from Francesca about her hopes for the future, and her reflections on life at St Catherine’s as she steps beyond the Heyington Gates.

What do you plan to study post School?
Francesca: I have really enjoyed exploring the intersection of creativity and practicality through my VCE studies of Viscom and Art.  Following school, I hope to study a degree related to this such as communications, advertising or interior design.

Where do you hope to study?
RMIT is a leading university for the degrees I am interested in.  I am also considering the degrees provided by Monash and Melbourne.  I would also like to live in a residential college like Queen’s College if I gain entry to RMIT.

COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works in 2020. Has it changed your perspective on where you see yourself in five years’ time? COVID has made me consider what really matters and the importance of experience and resilience in personal development.  If anything, COVID has heightened my determination to pursue my plans over the next 5 years.  Having a year being largely confined to home has heightened my appreciation of friends, celebrations and not missing the little things that happen each day but usually go unnoticed and under-appreciated. 

For example, notwithstanding the second wave that is currently sweeping Europe and the UK, I am still committed to a gap year in England.  Having earned a Teacher Assistant role at the Dragon School in Oxford for 2021, I am keen to still go abroad. On my return, hopefully there will be a more stable COVID normal and a vaccine as I commence university.  I am keen to pursue my studies, dreams, and goals but also want to help others less fortunate than me. Social responsibility and contributing to my community have been important to me whilst at St Catherine’s, and is something that will stay with me for life.

What have been some of the highlights of your time at St Catherine’s?
There are almost too many to say!  In Year 10, I was very lucky to go on the Italy art study tour.  I explored museums, galleries, and traditional art. It gave me a different perspective and enabled me to soak up Italian culture.  I really enjoyed the print making workshop with people from Monash University in Prato.  It has inspired me to take a similar path of creativity at university and continue my overseas travel. 

I also loved our trip to Fiji and being immersed in local communities. Interacting with the local children, seeing their happiness, even when they did not have all of the material things that surround us, made me really appreciate the importance of family.  

I have also enjoyed participating in the many co-curricular activities on offer. Choir, GSV sport, rowing, snowsports, musicals and House Arts have given me so many hours of enjoyment, and the opportunity to have fun with friends. I would really encourage others to get involved. 

Despite COVID-19,what will you take away from this year?
This year taught me a lot about perseverance and selfmotivation since I was studying at home rather than having the architecture of school.  I gained valuable time management skills to help balance life and study. I learnt to be productive online and to not get distracted by social media.  It was easy to get stuck at home inside with COVID due to the lockdowns, but this instead taught me how important friends and family and relationships are to maintain even when we are unable to physically connect. 

What are some life lessons you have learnt from your time at St Catherine’s, and particularly from 2020?
St Catherine’s taught me to show up with a can-do and get involved attitude.  There is always something you can help with no matter your skill level.  In doing so, you can find great communities.  Rowing is one example, where I learned the invaluable and clichéd  lesson that a champion crew will always beat a crew of champions. In year 7, I started choir and became part of a welcoming and close-knit musical community.  The lessons I have discussed above also came from how St Catherine’s has navigated virtual learning. 

What has COVID-19 taught you that will be able to transfer into the next phase of your journey?
As mentioned above, the importance of maintaining relationships virtually is something I will take with me.  Since I am planning a gap year, where I will live away from friends and family for a year, this will be helpful, especially if I find myself locked down in the UK due to Covid again.  

How do you believe St Catherine’s and your teachers have helped you reach your goals?
My teachers were always happy to meet with me individually and put in extra work to give us the best education.  They were always there to talk, no matter the problem.  This support made a big difference and the personalised approach to learning helps keep learning engaging and fun.  Beyond school life, teachers are still interested in you as a St Catherine’s family member. They somehow always appreciated me as a person, rather than a student with a grade. 

Being a small school, St Catherine’s also is able to provide proper help and has many welcoming communities to get involved in.  There are great external communities that St Catherine’s helps you get involved in, such as GSV Sports.   

What advice would you provide to future Year 12 students?
You will have the skills from year 11, so keep working every day.  Trusting in the process means you can build methodically to improve and get great results.  Give yourself the satisfaction of completing your to do list as you go along, and this should include academic and other things.  It is also handy to have quotes or definitions at hand to refer to in spare moments, such as putting them up in the shower or around your bedroom. 

It is important to make time for yourself to de-stress.  Further, nothing is permanent and Year 12 does not define who you are, nor will your ATAR. It is a stepping stone to whatever you chose to do next. 

Would you like to add anything else?
I’m very grateful for the resources provided during lockdown from SCatherine’s and all of the teachers’ hard work.  Even though the year was mostly online, I felt heavily supported.  I was able to complete my two portfolio subjects due to the ongoing support and advice from my teachers. You should take every opportunity as it comes, as you never know what will happen!  

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