MidCoast Christian College student Meisha Green says she was "ecstatic" when she learnt she was one of only 20 students to earn herself a Premier's Anzac Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship gives history students, selected from years 10 and 11, the chance to go on a two-week study tour of NSW to learn more about the history of Australians at war.
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What she did learn on the study tour, she says, was that so much of our history is not taught in our schools. For instance, what happened on Australian soil during WWII.
"We think of it as outside of Australia. We don't realise how close to home it really was."
One of the sites Meisha knew nothing about before the tour was the prisoner of war camp in Cowra, which held Italian and Japanese prisoners of war captured by Allied Forces in World War II.
"It blows your mind," Meisha says.
The buildings that housed the POWs are no longer there; in their place only concrete slabs remain. However, the site now houses a war memorial and a Japanese garden, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between Australia and Japan.
It is also the home of the Australia's World Peace Bell. Meisha explained that whenever the bell is rang, it signifies sending peace out into the world.
"We all got to ring it. It was really beautiful," she says.
The tour held more than one deeply touching experience for Meisha. She recounts being in the Children's Memorial in the Sydney Jewish Museum, a memorial that commemorates the one and a half million children who were lost in the Holocaust, and seeing the sculpture of children's shoes, how it made her "tear up", how hard it was to see the faces of 432 children on the walls.
"It's crazy and so hard to imagine that. (It) just felt so wrong that that happened."
Also a poignant moment was a cliff-side service in Darwin. At the Hall of Memory in Sydney's Anzac Memorial the students had cast paper stars, commemorating people who had served, into a well-like structure. The stars were then cremated and the students took the ashes in an urn with them on their tour. They scattered the ashes from the cliff at Darwin, and held a service which included playing The Last Post and observing silence.
"That was really special as a group to do that together," Meisha says.
However, when asked what the highlight of the tour was for Meisha, she doesn't choose one of the emotional moments. She chooses a visit to Abercrombie House in Bathurst as a stand out.
Abercrombie House is a huge, grand heritage building built in the 1870s, with more than 50 rooms, 30 fireplaces, and seven staircases.
"We heard a lot of stories from the person that lives there, Chris, and he's lived there since he was five or six," Meisha says.
"He told us so many stories with the house and coincidences and connections to different parts of history. And it was just crazy to contemplate how all those things come together. It was just mind blowing to hear all that. It was quite a moving kind of visit."
What started out from Meisha trawling the internet when she was at home with COVID in February and applying for what she thought would be an "awesome" adventure, has let to a life-changing experience for Meisha, and the formation of new friendships. She says she "100 per cent" encourages others to apply for the PAMS.
She must be persuasive in her effusiveness.
"There's already heaps of kids asking me how to apply!" she says.
To learn more about the Premier's Anzac Memorial Scholarship, go to www.veterans.nsw.gov.au/education/premiers-anzac-memorial-scholarship.
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