Claudia McFarlane on moving from a small country town

By Emily McAuliffe

Claudia McFarlane joined Trinity College on a scholarship, moving to Melbourne from the small Victorian town of Cohuna. Here she proves that you can pursue your passions, no matter what your circumstances.

Claudia McFarlane with friends at a Trinity event
Claudia (second from left) with friends at a Trinity College event


Claudia McFarlane

Where did you grow up?

I moved around a lot growing up. I lived in New Gisborne until I was 10, which is a small town an hour outside of Melbourne. My family then moved to Mt Isa, an outback mining community in north-western Queensland. I lived there for four years, until 2015 when we moved to Cohuna, a rural community in Northern Victoria.

What high school did you go to?

Cohuna Secondary College

What are you studying at university?

Bachelor of Music (classical clarinet)

What made you choose this field of study?

I’ve always had a passion for music. I love it so much that I went to great lengths throughout my secondary schooling to pursue my musical education. My school was not able to offer VCE music subjects, classroom music or instrumental lessons, so, instead, I studied music styles and composition through Virtual School Victoria, and I’d complete my weekly clarinet lessons via Skype with a teacher in Melbourne. Once a month I’d travel down to the city for an in-person lesson.

In year 11 and 12, I would travel eight hours return via public transport on a Saturday to rehearse and perform with Melbourne Youth Orchestra’s Wind Symphony. I was incredibly dedicated to studying music, and I think the challenges I faced played a large role in why I continued to study music at a tertiary level. I aspire to become a music teacher to give rural students the musical opportunities I never had.

In high school, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to study at university?

At one point I was considering psychology as a pathway, but I think it was always going to be music, there was no other field I loved more. I remember putting my preferences into VTAC, and all but one was music related.

At high school, did you know you wanted to go to college while at uni?

Living so far away from the city made moving for university essential. That meant my options were either a residential college or student accommodation.

At the time I don’t think I fully understood the premise of college other than it was a place to live and eat, but that changed very quickly once I arrived. I’d always heard the year levels above me say that living on res was the best decision they ever made, so I was quite eager to live on campus. I just didn’t know which one yet.

What made you choose Trinity?

The large pool of scholarships available was a big reason why I chose Trinity. I’d also just come from a school of only 200 people, so I had my heart set on going to one of the larger colleges. Having spent the last five years with only 30 people in my year, I really wanted to experience something different and immerse myself in a big community.

What year did you join Trinity College?


How would you describe the residential community at Trinity?

Unique, wonderful, exciting. So many positive words come to mind, I don’t think I could name them all. Everyone is so welcoming and they are genuinely lovely people. You are almost guaranteed to make friends for life at Trinity.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about college life?

The people. Everyone here is so genuine and will go out of their way to help others. I’ve never been in an environment like this where everyone is so kind, friendly and welcoming.

Each and every person is unique as well, and phenomenal in different ways. There are also so many opportunities and events that make it so easy to meet new people.

Have you been involved in any sports teams, committees or societies?

Last year I was president of the Music Society, which was a lot of fun. We organised music competitions, musical performances at formal hall, and began auditioning for a stage band. It was a great opportunity, and definitely an experience I have learnt a lot from. This year I am a committee member of Arts Society and cannot wait to carry out the plans we have in store.

Have you done anything at Trinity that you’d never tried before?

There are a lot of Trinity unique experiences like Juttoddie (which is like a steeplechase) that I had obviously never done before coming here, but outside of this I had never been part of a musical. I successfully auditioned for the Trinity musical band last year, which was a great experience.

Do you think living on campus has enriched your university experience?

100%, especially throughout COVID. The last two years of lockdown have been really difficult, and I am so thankful to have spent them surrounded by friends. I don’t know many other people who could say the same.

Being at Trinity is like being part of a big family, and I think that support system really assisted with my transition from high school to university. The academic program is also incredible and has definitely helped me achieve higher results. For example, I successfully auditioned for the Trinity chamber music program, which provides ensemble experience and feedback from the head of music. Being a chamber scholar allowed me to prepare for my university performance exams and resulted in high distinctions for my second-year subjects Chamber Music 1 and 2.

Is there anything you have learned from your college experience that you don’t think you would have learned anywhere else?

I’ve learnt to step outside my comfort zone and take every opportunity that presents itself. College truly is such a unique environment where you can be whoever you choose. I’ve definitely grown as a person.

What is your favourite high school memory?

My favourite memory from high school would probably be our trip to Mount Bogong, where we learnt about the alpines, sustainability and the environment. We got to work alongside students from different schools and went downhill skiing at Falls Creek. I’d never done anything like it – it was much a memorable experience for me and my friends.

Is there anything you learnt at high school that has set you up well for uni life?

Hard work pays off. I believe the study skills I developed throughout year 12 have assisted me with study habits at a university level. This allowed me to achieve academic goals through organisation and effective study strategies.

What has your experience at university been like so far?

My experience at the University of Melbourne has been really positive. It was a bit difficult in 2020 with online learning, especially with such a hands-on degree like music. Now that we have transitioned back to in-person classes, my tutorials and lectures are so engaging.

I really enjoy the content I’m learning, and genuinely look forward to attending campus. The facilities at both the Parkville and Southbank campuses are second to none. I feel very fortunate to be able to study at the University of Melbourne.

What advice would you give to students in their final year of high school when it comes to deciding what to do next year?

Do whatever feels right for you and follow your passions, no matter how ambitious. You are so young, and you have your whole life ahead of you. You don’t need to have everything figured out right now. Take it day by day and everything will fall into place.

To find out more about living at Trinity College, click here, and view this page for information about scholarships.


06 May 2022