Matthew Lowe, Class of 2021

Matthew started at GVGS in Year 7 after graduating from Shepparton East Primary School in 2016. “I found GVGS to be very welcoming and I felt empowered to do what I wanted to do from day one. I’ve been in the Guitar Orchestra since Year 7 and I’ve always been encouraged to do what I want to do by both teachers and my friends,” he says. “You definitely notice the effort teachers put in for your education to be the best it can be, especially in the senior years. That was something that made a real difference for me and drove me to achieve.”

Over the years, Matt found school camps to be a highlight for him, but his favourite was the two-week Urban Experience Programme in Melbourne. “It was good to have the freedom and independence to explore the city in the way you wanted to. During the day the onus is on you to do the right thing and take responsibility for how your day unfolds. It was a cathartic experience, I didn’t really get to do anything like that in my life before,” he says. “The Bogong High Plains camp was great too. You get to be with your friends and then also meet new people that you wouldn’t normally spend time with at school so you can create new connections within your own year level.”

At the beginning Matthew found online learning to be a great opportunity to focus on his studies, but as time went on the disconnection from his friends and teachers took its toll. “I fast-tracked Indonesian in Year 11, so being at home was good in the sense that I could really knuckle down and get that done. In Year 12, the novelty of online learning had well and truly worn off, so it has been a lot harder this year. Doing Physics and Chemistry was a struggle because we didn’t have the tools to do the practical stuff, so we had to improvise a lot of the time. But when speaking to students at other schools and comparing situations, we were pretty well off,” he says. “Both my parents were really accommodating when it came to learning from home. We (siblings Jasmine Year 10 and David Year 7) each had a set up in our room and so we had everything in there and during class we would just shut our doors to block out the noise. With my younger brother just starting high school and me in my final year, it really was two people at the opposite ends of the spectrum trying to do what needed to get done.”

The reality that he would be spending his final school year separated from his friends and teachers made Matthew reflect on his education and how important VCE studies are. “During exam time I got really frustrated with myself because I realised all the work I had done over 13 years came down to a handful of exams and that pressure made me realise how important it is to believe in yourself and stay strong under the pressure. I’d never felt like that before, I’d heard previous Year 12 students talk about the stress and the pressure, but it really is that hard to get good marks and stay focused the entire time,” he says. “I learned a lot about working efficiently and making the most of the time you have, there are only so many hours in a day and you have to make them count. The School was so supportive, so that made the whole experience a lot more bearable because they had your back the whole time. Teachers would Zoom after hours and during lunch, they really went above and beyond. Especially the IT staff while we were at home and struggling with our computers, they were fantastic and helped us out a lot.”

During the many lockdowns across 2020 and 2021, Matthew set small goals for himself throughout the day in an attempt to break down his workload and create a consistent sense of achievement. “As exams approached, I put all my energy into my study so I did exercise a lot less, but I tried to run and stick to a routine as much as I could. I am someone who needs a routine, even now having finished exams I still try and keep one so I can be more productive. It doesn’t have to be heavily structured, but just have a few things you need to accomplish each day to stop you from procrastinating,” he says. “I like to eat, so rewarding myself with some food always helped me get things done too.”

Next year, Matthew plans on taking a gap year and working full time at Rebel Sport so he can save up and move to Melbourne in 2023. “I’d like to do a little bit of travel next year, domestically at least. I have a strong passion for cars, so restoring a car over the next 12 months would be a fun project too. In Year 11 I spent a bit of time restoring cars, rebuilding motorbike engines and stuff like that with my dad during the lockdowns to keep me busy,” he says. “I’m planning on studying engineering at Monash University and living at Clayton Residential Village. I’ve been set on it for a while and I’ve explored other courses, but engineering has quite a broad course structure so that gives me some flexibility as well. It suits my passions and my strengths.”

Matthew hopes to take his passion for cars and engineering and use it to make the world a better place for future generations. “I’m really interested in sustainability and vehicles, so if I become qualified, I’ve love to focus on renewable energy and sustainable vehicles,” he says. “I’d love to move overseas and work internationally one day too. It would be great to be able to explore what’s out there and what could be a career for me.”