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Despite Disruptions, Helana is Stuck on Science

By July 21, 2020January 14th, 2021No Comments

Helana Trantino from Young NSW is facing the challenges of moving away from home, university and the COVID-19 pandemic with intelligence, thoughtfulness and positivity.

Mum works as the School Administrations Manager and Dad, a sparkie by trade, works as a maintenance officer at the retirement village. You can imagine the stories we get to hear. From the youth to the elderly.


Helana was born on the Gold Coast, but spent most of her childhood in the country town of Young, on the NSW South West Slopes. The little town is well known for its National Cherry Festival.

Helana spent her days playing netball, dancing, going on road trips and eating many cherries with her Mum, Dad and older sister. The two girls are close in age and often mistaken for twins.

Over the years, her grandparents and Nana also relocated to the Young. It is clear that family means a lot to Helana.



Country Education Foundation of Young


Fenner Hall, ANU


Australian National University


Bachelor of Science


First year of
four-year degree


Helana is studying at the Australian National University (ANU), and even with her sister at the same university she struggled to get used to being away from home, away from family. The sisters both have a passion for and are studying science degrees. They don’t know where the fascination with science comes from, but have both been drawn to the subject. Helana hopes to major in biochemistry, captivated by the broad topics and research available, and has a particular interest in genetics.

Like many rural students, finding accommodation was a challenge. Even though she didn’t get her first choice of on-campus accommodation, she says she has now become part of a ‘welcoming community’ at Fenner Hall.

As I am studying a science degree, I am no longer able to get the hands-on experience of attending chemistry or biology labs which provide valuable skills for the types of careers I hope to pursue.


Helana had been on campus for a little over a month and just started to settle in and make friends. She was looking forward to the social and sporting events to meet new people and find her way when COVID-19 hit.

During the height of the pandemic, Helana and other students across the country were forced to find alternative accommodation or return home to continue their studies online.

For Helana, this meant returning home and, despite leaving her part-time job in Canberra, she felt very fortunate in what has been a very disruptive time for many people.

Isolation due to COVID-19 has made me realise the importance of introspection and trying new things which I hope to continue in the post COVID-19 world.


I feel it is extremely important to help pass on that encouragement to others and collectively create an environment where other school leavers see being a rural and regional student means you have a community supporting you, rather than a limit to higher education or employment.

Helana was first made aware of  CEF by a classmate who thought she could benefit from the support and it is this community-based support which makes the CEF model so unique.

Helana says that receiving the grant from Country Education Foundation of Young not only eased the financial pressures of the family, with two children away at university, but also gave her a boost of confidence during a time of transition that caused her a lot of anxiety, as it does for so many country youth. Knowing that she was backed by an organisation that believes in her and her future meant Helana could really focus on her studies, fueling a drive to invest in higher education.

Knowing how important the financial and social support is, Helana is keen to encourage other school-leavers. She is all too aware of the doubts students can feel, but say they should ‘take the leap’ and that there are support systems and people out there willing to help. She sums it up perfectly with, “If it is something you are passionate about or want to pursue further, put in the effort and you can make it happen.”


Best playlist for concentrating?
Acoustic Covers on Spotify – even if I always end up getting distracted and singing along

Favourite place for coffee?
Controversial opinion – I hate coffee! But I do enjoy a nice chai latte or hot chocolate (with marshmallows of course) at our local bakery in Young, Wilders.

Last book you read?
I am simultaneously reading The Hobbit by the glorious J.R.R. Tolkien and Mythos by Stephen Fry

How would you spend your last $10?
Probably too practical an answer but food, probably a pizza

If you could start a study group with any five people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Hank Green – to remind everyone “Don’t forget to be awesome!”
Mark Rover – for some light-heartedness and ingenuity
Katherine Johnson – to pick her brain on mathematics and perseverance
Marie Curie – for obvious chemistry knowledge and life advice
Leonardo Da Vinci – to try and improve my horrible Italian and historical knowledge


Author Nicole

CEF Engagement & Development

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