The story of 2020 for our Year 12s began with a smoky haze that sat heavily over the city. We feared the devastating bushfires would define the year.

Fast forward to September and six months into the grip of a global pandemic, we’re all wondering, what next?! The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant necessary restrictions and lockdowns that have made remote learning an essential part of students' lives, in what may already be the most stressful year of their education.

We chatted to two members of the Mercieca family – Year 12 Elise and dad Jim – about their experiences this year and their hopes for the future.

Elise's exercise in resilience

Elise studies Year 12 at Braybrook Secondary College along with her twin sister Cassie. It’s been a tough year but this tight-knit family stays positive and focuses on looking forward.

What’s been the hardest part about this school year?

“Probably how unsettling it’s been, all the back and forth. The best scenario for us of course is to learn at school and I definitely prefer being with my teachers and my friends, but it’s the not knowing what’s coming next that’s been hard to cope with.

I miss being able to chat face to face with everyone, the one-on-one interactions with teachers, and catching up with all my friends.”

Have there been any unexpected perks with remote learning?

“Well, there’re a lot of distractions at home, which is both good and bad! I’m lucky my twin sister Cassie is in Year 12 too, so we’ve got each other. Sometimes during the first online class of the day we walk around and make breakfast while the teacher’s talking.

Sleeping in and starting the day in your PJs isn’t all bad! I’ve also chosen subjects I really enjoy which helps me stay motivated – business management, health, legal studies, English and psychology.”

What does 2021 hold for you?

“I’ll be going to uni next year. I’ve already locked in my place at VU through the VU Guaranteed program, before completing my final exams. With all the uncertainty this year, it’s nice to have some security for the future.

I was able to apply for VU Guaranteed as I attend one of VU's partner schools. We were all encouraged to apply; the process was really easy.

I’m hoping to study law. Legal is my favourite subject – I’m passionate about justice and I’d like to specialise in family law.

I really like the sound of VU’s Block Model. Doing one subject at a time – rather than what we’re doing now, juggling multiple subjects and assessments – really appeals to me. It would allow me to focus more and be less distracted.

I work part time in hospitality now. It’s good to know that with the Block Model's timetable and focused workload I’ll be able to manage a job next year and keep an active social life with my friends and my partner – if COVID allows!”

Dad Jim keeps calm & carries on

Jim’s trusting approach helps this dad stress less.

Have you worried about the kids this year?

“Being a parent of two Year 12s at once, of course I do worry and hope they’re doing their best and staying focused. But I’m confident they are both putting in the hard work, they’re coping okay in lockdown.

In 2020 the girls have been lucky in many ways – they’re motivated and I never have to tell them to do their work. Technology has enabled them to do all their classes online without a problem.

What have been some positives with remote learning?

I would worry far more if the girls were at risk of catching the virus, so it’s fine that they’re home; we have to just get through this period.

Actually, Elise and Cassie have looked after me this year. I’ve had two knee reconstructions, so I’m lucky to have had them home this year to run up and down the stairs for me!

What do you hope for your daughters next year?

Their heads are screwed on the right way. It’s natural any parent would have some trepidation sending their kids out to the world of uni or TAFE. It’s the next stage of independence.

Hearing about the VU Block Model relieves some of the worry. It sounds like a better way to settle in to uni.

The girls’ mum and I are on the same page – we know they will be fine and trust they’ll make wise decisions.”

Reflecting on a crazy year together!

Find out more

Find out more about VU's revolutionary approach to learning and the success our students have had even in remote learning, thanks to our VU Block Model.

Keep up to date with VU's response to the coronavirus.