Ash Tyagi, Class of 2020

Ash Tyagi migrated from India to Australia with her family when she was 11 years old. “It was a whole new language, new culture, new set of social norms,” she says. “It was a lot to take on at first.” After living in Canberra for a short time, the Tyagi family settled in Shepparton in 2017 and Ash commenced Year 9 at GVGS. “There’s definitely been a lot of adjusting and acclimatising in my life,” says Ash. “When I first moved to Grammar it was difficult for the first few months, but I found that after time and putting in my best effort to make the most of this change everything worked out for the best.” Throughout her life, Ash has had her parents and twin brother, Ayush, by her side as constant support. “My whole family have had to accommodate to a lot of change to get the opportunities that we want,” she says. “They want me to be fulfilled academically and want the best for me…you do tend to take the bond you have with your family for granted, but at the end of the day they’re the people who are always there for you.” Both of Ash’s parents currently work at Goulburn Valley Health in clinical roles – her mum as a gynaecologist and her dad as a sonographer – and she says they have always had her best interests at heart when making big life decisions. “Our move to Australia was driven by the want to have better education and career opportunities,” she says. “We knew this choice was the best for our future and we have a new life here in Australia.” Although Ash can see the logic in moving away from her homeland, she has maintained a strong connection with her culture and heritage, consciously incorporating this into her identify. “No one really talks about the losses you experience when you move,” she says. “People always talk about the opportunities that you receive – and there really are a lot of advantages to moving and making sacrifices like we have – but leaving your family can be really difficult and it’s hard to leave them behind.”

When Ash commenced at GVGS, a strong school spirit was something she noticed from day one. “It was really different to what I was expecting…one thing that really struck me when I first started was how welcoming the teachers were, there just wasn’t that barrier between teachers and students,” she says. “They really are there to talk to you, support you and make sure you achieve the best outcomes you can…I found really a close-knit community at Grammar that I hadn’t experienced anywhere before.” A disappointment for Ash this year has been not being able to see out her final year of high school in the way she envisioned. “You have a lot of expectations about what Year 12 is going to be like and I really struggled with lockdown because I felt like this had all been stolen away from me,” she says. “We had all the hard work and we had all the study, but we never got to have those fun experiences that everyone always talks about and has such fond memories of from their time in Year 12.” Her connection with her peers and teachers is something she relied upon heavily in 2020, as during remote learning Ash experienced multiple losses in her extended family due to COVID-19. “It’s so important to appreciate the small things,” she says. “The sad reality is that even though we’ve been doing school from home for all these months, there are many people who are going through much harder times than us.”

Ash says the personal hardship she has faced during the coronavirus pandemic has made her reflect on her own life and create goals for the future. “It’s easy to get caught up in the little things, like not being able to see your friends, but then when you experience firsthand the human cost of this pandemic it really puts everything in perspective,” she says. “This has all really cemented my desire to work in the health field because it’s so difficult watching all this unfold and not being able to do anything…one day I hope I can be someone who supports people during really hard times such as this.” In 2021, Ash hopes to go to Monash University but is keeping her options open and has applied to universities all over the country. “I am hoping to get into medicine next year; it’s what I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was a little kid,” she says. “After everything that has happened this year, it’s never been clearer to me that this is what I want to do with my life.” With the ongoing uncertainty and unpredictability, the coronavirus pandemic has embedded into everyone’s life, Ash is trying her best to stay focused and resilient over the coming months. “The best thing I can do right now is take things one step at a time,” she says. “Right now I just need to get my applications in on time, prepare for interviews and not worry about the things happening around me that I have no control over.” Ash is passionate about human rights and although COIVD-19 has restricted the ways in which a typical GVGS Social Justice Executive would fulfil the role, Ash has cherished the privilege of holding the position for 2020. “Social equity is so important; it should never be something that anyone has to worry about,” she says. “We all have a responsibility to make sure we are working hard to break down the inequalities and injustice across the world.”

After a turbulent year, Ash has a few words of wisdom to pass along to the class of 2021. “Put in your best effort every day because you really don’t know what’s coming next and how things are going to play out,” she says. “As long as you keep giving 100% and putting your best foot forward, then you’ll be ready for anything…you need to be in the best possible position to handle the hard knocks that you don’t expect.”