Lilia Tennant, Class of 2021


Lilia Tennant relocated from Canberra to Tatura with her family when she was in primary school and started at GVGS in Year 5. “I love getting involved in stuff and I love having something to look forward to, having a full calendar keeps me motivated,” she says of her busy school schedule, which included 56 cocurricular events since she commenced in 2014. “I really enjoyed running when I was in my first few years at GVGS and I also enjoyed doing backstage in the School Productions. I’m not a big fan of singing because I’m not very good at it, so I’d much rather be involved behind the scenes”

Although passionate about her sport and recreational activities in general, Lilia says she has been more academically focused in recent years. “I’ve always had a love for learning and that’s been solidified in these last few years since I’ve decided I want to go to university. A lot of what I learn comes quite naturally to me, which I am very grateful for and it helps me to not get too stressed about things,” she says. “School Productions and sport are something I do for fun, to balance myself out, so I don’t get overwhelmed with all my school work.”

When choosing her VCE subjects, Lilia says it was both her love for reading and her part-time job at Collins Booksellers in Shepparton that drove her to study literature. “It’s like my VCE subjects were split down the middle, so I got to learn about everything I’m passionate about. On one hand, I had English and literature, but then I also chose biology and chemistry, so I got to focus on that science-based learning as well,” she says. “I fast-tracked biology in Year 11 and that was by far my favourite subject, I really loved it. Every second of the class I was so involved and I even chose to do my own further learning outside of class because I enjoyed it so much. I missed not studying biology this year and so I got my fix by keeping up with all the science news I could find online.”

Lilia says she found virtual learning difficult at times throughout the pandemic but found moving away from the rigidity of classic timetable routines the answer to many of her problems. “It was hard not being able to turn to the person next to you and bounce ideas around. As the year drew to a close my motivation really plummeted, but I remembered I was working towards a goal, so I had to keep going,” she says. “I found that making timetables without strict time limits was the most productive way for me to learn. When I took away those tight study periods and took as long as I needed to do something I could get more things done. I had a lot more time on my hands while I was learning from home and so I could just dissolve into what I needed to do without that time pressure and knowing that I’d have to pack up my things and leave class soon.”

Lilia says her teachers made a deliberate effort to keep learning enjoyable while they were at home. “It was the little things the teachers did, like ‘funny hat Friday’, to make us have a bit of fun and make online learning a little bit more exciting that really helped to get us all through,” she says. “I was really grateful that a lot of friends reached out to me in the beginning and people were conscious to stay connected, but it did become less frequent as time went on. But that then meant that the calls you did have were more powerful, they were fewer and far between, but they meant more.”

Overall, Lilia found lockdown prompted a lot of personal growth. “I got to be a lot more focused without those external distractions and so I got to put myself at the centre of my learning. You really have to push yourself and focus on yourself when you’re learning from home. It made me a lot more independent and a lot stronger as a person,” she says. “Missing out on milestone school events was difficult but getting to spend more time with my family was one of the upsides and there was always  face time when I wanted to connect with people.”

Lilia says although she is someone who doesn’t normally like change, her ability to adapt and be flexible has improved dramatically. “I’ve realised that each person is at the centre of their own experience and you have to, more than anything, make sure you’re ok with whatever is going on because sometimes you can’t control what’s going to happen next. Whether you accept it or not, it’s a constantly changing environment around you and what we’ve been through is an extreme example of that,” she says. “We never really knew what was going to happen next and so we focused on the things we could control, like study plans and how keeping your working from home space in check. You did get used to it after a while and the uncertainty became the expected. Getting to have the Valedictory Dinner all together as a year level was great and because it was after exams it really felt like a celebration. We’ve all done such a great job and I’m so proud of every single person in my year level.”

Next year, Lilia plans to head back to her hometown of Canberra and begin a Bachelor of Medical Studies and Arts at Australian National University. “Because ANU have flexibility with their course structures, I can continue studying literature and also pursue my medical studies at the same time so I’m really looking forward to that,” she says. “I’m planning on living on campus when I head back to Canberra. I think it’ll be a good way to meet people and make new friends. I’m a real planner so I’ve always thought I would go back to Canberra and study one day.”

Lilia says she wants to take her genuine love for learning into the future with her, not only to university but into her future workplace as well. “It’s lovely to be able to interpret our world in a meaningful and inspired way. Being at GVGS has helped nurture that within me because my teachers have always prompted continuous discussions and they push you into self-directed learning so we can grow ourselves. I found that really inspiring and it made me feel like I wasn’t just doing structured learning, but that there was real meaning behind each and every class,” she says. “The teachers guide you all the time and as you move through the year levels the relationships you have with them just keep getting stronger and stronger, it is a beautiful thing.”