Watching films was more help than distraction for Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield graduate Brent Macaraeg, who topped the state in the 2021 Italian Beginners HSC exam.

Brent was among 139 students across NSW recognised by Sarah Mitchell, Minister for Education and Early Learning, during an online First in Course ceremony on 19 January 2022.

Brent said he was shocked when he first learned he had received a First in Course award.

“After that I was ecstatic to see that my dedication to a subject I am passionate about finally bore fruit,” he said.

The awards place the students among NSW’s top achievers from the 76,399 students who sat one or more HSC courses in 2021. 

Movie-watching paves way to success 

During his exam prep, Brent said Luca Miniero’s 2010 comedy Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South) became a tool to appreciate the differences between northern and southern Italian stereotypes. 

Cristiano Bortone’s Red like the sky also helped with his cultural understanding.

“It was a great dive into the sociopolitical history of Italy and my perspective of the country as a whole,” said Brent.

“The grammatical and lexical differences between Italian and English forced me to think in a different way.

“The richness of Italian culture and its contrast to Australian culture also played a part in keeping me consistently interested in learning Italian: to learn a language means to learn its culture as well.”

“I credit a lot of my success to Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield’s learning environment” – Brent Macaraeg

Best advice: ‘Work as a cohort’

Brent credits his success to both the learning environment at Patrician Brothers and his teachers’ advice, “to work as a cohort and not as an individual”. 

“There was a point in [COVID-19] lockdown learning where I felt concerningly behind with the work, but there were opportunities where we could be more vocal about our struggles to each other and to teachers and I think that helped,” he said.

“The fact that Patrician Brothers’ focused on working towards the HSC as a team allowed me to share ideas with others and strengthen my knowledge in my studies as a whole.”

World is his oyster

Brent plans to complete a combined Commerce and Law degree, but is also open to studying psychology or engineering.

He said he would also like to travel and study in Italy in the near future.

Travelling around the world is on my bucket list and, having learnt a lot about Italy, it’s the first country overseas that I would like to visit,” he said.