We knew when we embarked on this adventure that our daughters would both go through graduation experiences that would be different from the one they would have had in the US. One of the things we were keen to expose our girls to was a different educational experience. While our oldest daughter Sophie’s graduation from the University of Queensland last December was all of the pomp and circumstance, relief and joy that all graduates should experience, Eve’s graduation from high school was a bit different due to COVID. Actually all of the 2020 school year has been different thanks to COVID. What is also a bit unusual for those of us from the Northern Hemisphere is that school starts in late January/early February here. What that has meant for this years cohort (class) is that not just the tail end of their senior year has been disrupted by COVID but pretty much the entire school year. There was only a partial volleyball season for Eve, one choir recital compared to the many she would normally have, no real opportunity to step into the leadership role she had been chosen for. While this year has been a disappointment, in many ways, it has also been an opportunity to learn resilience and flexibility and how to turn lemons into lemonade! Eve and her cohort have done that in incredible ways!
In terms of graduation itself, what the virus and the ensuing restrictions meant was that the ceremony was held during the school day, no parents present way back in September. All the parents were then sent a link so we could watch the ceremony from the comfort of our own home. Now while it was sad to not be able to watch her receive her diploma in person, it also meant we didn’t have to sit through a three hour ceremony – lemons to lemonade. Another thing that is different here, at least with Eve’s school, is that they wrap all of academic awards of the school into that graduation ceremony so this year we didn’t have to sit through that either – more lemonade! The challenging part for Eve was going back to school for two more months after the graduation ceremony. A couple weeks ago marked the very last event of the school year – Graduation Dinner (or as they call it valedictory). In spite of the restrictions, this has been an incredibly normal school year in many ways thanks to the low case numbers in Australia. We are thankful every single day for the safety we’ve experienced here in our state of Queensland!.
If you know us well, you might know that Eve’s school experience has been quite a circuitous path. We have tried a number of different academic experiences to find what is best for our girl. While Lawson and I would probably have chosen the Waldorf/Steiner school here in Brisbane, Eve wanted a more mainstream high school experience. So, Catholic girls school it was! Now this might sound funny, especially to my Catholic friends, but I was really worried about the nuns trying to nudge Eve to become a nun herself because she is such a caring, sensitive, deeply spiritual soul. Well, that was not remotely something to worry about! This simply shows my own ignorance of Catholicism and Australian culture in general. Instead, Eve has learned to navigate quite a big school. She has learned to navigate a girls school no less. From a parents perspective, she found really good, kind, inspiring friends. She found ways to shine in the midst of being the new girl with the American accent. She learned to work together within the context of her House – Beck House (think Harry Potter and Gryfifndor vs Slytheron). She also learned more curse words than I have heard in my whole life – hello Australia!
Eve rode the ferry to school almost every day which was wonderful for us all as her school was across the river from where we’ve lived. She embraced this mode of travel and befriended younger Lourdes girls who rode the ferry as well as the ferry staff. I think she’s going to miss the dailyness of this too!
Another thing that is different about graduation from high school in Australia than the US is that students wear their school uniforms for the ceremony. This would have been true even if Eve had a graduated in a non-COVID world. Fortunately, Eve has one of the sweetest best friends in all the world, her friend Madeline from back home in the States and she sent Eve a proper American cap and gown for pictures! Madeline had planned on traveling to Australia for Eve’s graduation but with the borders closed that reunion will have to be postponed but her generous gift will always be one of the most positive parts of Eve’s graduation from high school! Here are a few of Eve’s graduation pics taken here at New Farm Park Rose Garden!
We should have captured a pic of Lawson and I jumping for joy as well because as every parent at this stage of life knows there is joy (as well as a wee bit of nostalgia) when your youngest child graduates. There is definitely joy in knowing we will never have to sit through another parent meeting again! It is the end of an era for sure!
One of the reasons we chose Lourdes Hill College was because it was a Good Samaritan school which suited our Eve perfectly! She has had heaps of opportunities to volunteer, to serve and to be acknowledged for something we don’t often see rewarded in our very academic oriented school’s these days – a generous and kind heart! Last year Eve was nominated for the Bulimba Electorate Queensland Day Awards which recognizes people who inspire others to be better human beings and as someone who makes their part of the world a better place! How cool is that?! In addition, she was SPARC captain which is a service group all about protecting the environment. She was also home group representative for her house for a semester. Go Eve!
Among the things we are going to miss are the uniforms, especially the hats that are so unique to Australia. Eve has embraced the rhythm of having a uniform and we love the equalizer that provides all students. We’ve never understood why parents in the US would resist having uniforms because it simplifies life so very much! Eve got lucky because the uniform at Lourdes is relatively attractive as far as uniforms here go – mauve and white! Well except her choral uniform which I will not post a pic of because it is atrocious, even on Eve who looks beautiful in everything (well, except this).
The big question for year 12’s/seniors is always what is next? Well, in Eve’s case the answer to that is she is on hold until we get word on the state of our visa. For anyone who has lived abroad, who hasn’t had any permanent status you know how stressful the waiting can be. We are all on hold until the Australian government decides if they want to grant permanent residency to us. It is easy to be somewhat pragmatic on the front end of an adventure but on the tail end when your children have fallen in love with where they are living it is an altogether different experience. I will write more about this on a later post so for now back to Eve and her plans. Well, she is looking for a part-time job right now. She is babysitting – a lot. She is exploring the possibility of modeling. She is researching programs that she might want to pursue if we are granted permanent residency. And, she always has university in the US tucked away in the back of her mind as well.
I will close this post with some fun pics of Eve’s school experience and by saying that one of the best parts of this adventure has been school for the girls. There are no perfect school’s. All school’s to some degree are a business. What has been good here has been how our girls have found acceptance. While sitting down and regurgitating facts memorized will never be Eve’s cup of tea, what she was allowed to do was shine in other ways. To value becoming a Good Samaritan in the world today is incredible. For the principals and teachers to like you, to see your contributions even if you aren’t the top academic achiever is so incredibly important. The theme this year was Peacemakers as well the ongoing theme from 2019 Space to be Yourself. While there was all the petty, hurt feeling moments you would expect in an all girls school there was always the focus on collaboration and cheering their cohorts on as well. I am reminded of the verse in Matthew “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” and love thinking of a world where these girls are part of carrying this kind of peacemaking energy forward. Our world desperately needs that right now don’t you think? Congratulations sweet Eve! We are so very proud of you! We hope you and your cohort light up our world by being messengers of peace! .