COVID-19 has certainly presented its challenges to Year 12 students.
Niamh Christopher can attest to that. But the 17-year-old Smiths Hill High School student knows the Year 12 class of 2020 is perhaps the most resilient on record as a result.
"It has certainly had its ups and downs," Niamh said.
"Recently there has been quite a debacle over formals and graduation ceremonies but on the whole I think we have actually come out of this year a lot more resilient than probably previous graduating year 12 classes - just because our ability to adapt has really served the test of time, given all the circumstances we've had to deal with.
"I think it is really a reflection on the abilities and the passion and dedication of this new generation of young people to overcome such adverse circumstances that we've been able to survive through the last year basically while sitting our HSC."
The Cordeaux Heights teenager who hopes to become a doctor, is among the 1362 students across NSW doing Japanese, still the most popular language course in 2020.
Niamh is undertaking the Japanese Continuous and Japanese Extension courses.
"I chose it mainly because I started learning Japanese when I was in Year 2," she said.
"But, I also just have a genuine interest in both the language and the culture of Japan, which is mainly borne from the fact that Australia and Japan are so geographically close to each other but our cultures and our languages are so different. They are almost polar opposites of each other.
"I find that really unique and really interesting and an excellent opportunity to foster learning and to develop a good understanding of both culture and the machinations behind it."
But COVID-19 restrictions almost derailed her studies.
"In my studies of Japanese it was adversely effected by going into lockdown because part of the course for language studies is a speaking component, which was extremely difficult to try and practice over zoom calls when we couldn't really get as much nuance, or get a deeper understanding as to our responses and what feedback we could do to improve," Niamh said.
"it was pretty inconvenient trying to do an interview in entirely Japanese over a phone call where there was a lag and where we couldn't really hear some of the questions."
Though doing a subject she enjoys has allowed Niamh to overcome the many challenges of 2020.
"Doing activities such as watching anime or talking in Japanese to my friends at every chance that I get has really fostered both my love of the language and connection between all of us.
"We haven't really been able to connect as much as we'd like. As a cohort of students we've just had to do our best."
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