As our current Year 12 students prepare to leave the relative safety of the school environment, this story might help to prepare them for just how much their life is about to change in a short time.
Rachael Welling was a ‘lifer’ at Girton, attending from 2001 to 2013, and since leaving Bendigo, has crammed in volumes of study, but perhaps more telling, an awful lot of life.
For someone who studied Year 12 music and theatre, ending up in a double degree in Environmental Engineering and Science (Mathematics) at Monash University, wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice.
“One minute I’m in a classroom doing Maths and the next I’m out at a beach counting sea snails and barnacles, which is a ton of fun.
“I also tutor in Maths and my students give me funny looks when I say I studied music and theatre but ended up in Engineering.
“But because my years at Girton gave me independence, confidence and a willingness to do – branching out as much as possible – I don’t feel all that surprised to be doing such diverse study,” Rachael said.
Rachael said that her most influential teacher was Dr. Michael Lichnovsky, her Year 12 Music teacher and current teacher at the school.
“Dr Lichnovsky always pushed me to do my absolute best, and instilled a confidence and discipline that has stayed with me since leaving Girton.
“He was like a one-man-boot camp at times, but I recognise that it is because he actually believed I could do better. So I try to carry that with me always,” she said.
Rachael is a regular volunteer for Engineers Without Borders through the Monash University chapter and recently went on a life changing trip to Cambodia, with 40 other Engineering students and professionals learning about the culture, history and challenges faced by the country.
“My team spent two nights in a rural village in east Cambodia – the warmth and openness that we were met with by the villagers will stay with me forever.
“It completely changed my perspective on what makes people happy and what we should be prioritizing in our lives.
“At the end of the trip, we developed design proposals in teams to present to a local Cambodian NGO. It was so valuable to gain experience in my field outside of a developed nation,” she said.
Rachael said that one of the main activities for the Monash University chapter of Engineers Without Borders is a program called “High School Outreach”, which involves going to local primary and senior schools and presenting an interactive workshop on engineering and humanitarian work.
“We’re about to do a trip called Regioneering where we take the workshops to regional schools in Victoria where there is potentially less access to experts, scientific facilities and laboratory based classrooms,” she said.
Rachael maintains that leaving Bendigo and gaining independence has been a huge life event and that she has recently moved into an apartment with her partner and Old Girtonian, Jackson, also a 2013 graduate.
“Out of all the things I have done since leaving school becoming an adult has been the biggest adjustment.
“It’s early days for me but learning to just get out there and put my hand up has been difficult, but when I do, it has led to travelling overseas, teaching classrooms full of students and having my own apartment – it’s been crazy,” Rachael said.
For more information about the international work done by Engineers Without Boarders, go to: https://www.ewb.org.au/