February is a time for farewells in Gunnedah.
Higher School Certificate students from 2016 and 2017 are packing boxes and car boots with the sum of their lives as they prepare to move away from home for university.
Among those flying the nest are Kustiani Tuckerman and Annerley Fitzsimmons.
Kustiani will be leaving Gunnedah on Friday to head to Wollongong where she will be taking on environmental civil and environmental engineering at the local university.
“I’m excited and nervous. I’ve got mixed emotions; buying adulty stuff like saucepans,” she said.
“I’ll miss my family [but] I have family in Wollongong so we go down there regularly, so it’s not that big a deal.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and become a successful adult.”
The former Gunnedah High School student is glad she isn’t taking a gap year.
“I’m still 17 and I don’t have that much money saved but I just want to go,” she said.
“I’ve had a long holiday, so I’m ready.
“Two people from St Mary’s and a couple of my friends are going down there next year so I’m looking forward to that.”
Annerley won’t be far behind Kustiani, travelling to Armidale on Sunday to get settled in on campus at the University of New England.
“I’m a bit nervous about starting all over again; it’s a whole new experience,” she said.
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The former St Mary’s College student says she knows a few other locals heading to Armidale but is also looking forward to meeting new people and “finding out what uni is all about”.
“I’m excited to go and experience it but I’m also worried about the lectures – it will be different; the unknown,” she said.
“I’m glad I didn’t lose the motivation and that my writing skills are still relatively fresh.”
It will be the first time Annerley has lived out of home.
“I will miss a lot of people but I will be glad to be on my own and branch out.”
Jaxon Holbrook is among those staying behind for a gap year. He has left his high school job at McDonald’s and is now working full-time in reception at Forsyths.
“It’s good to get into the office workforce fresh out of school,” he said.
The former Gunnedah High School student has deferred an arts degree.
The trio said they were thankful to their schools and teachers for their support over the years.