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Talking to Teens Before and After Schoolies

We interviewed five teenagers before and after schoolies to compare their expectations with reality. Historically this has been a story of unchecked impulses and reckless behaviour. How things have changed.
December 17, 2014, 12:41am

Last night ABC2 screened Inside Schoolies, a warts-and-all look at Australia's yearly post-exam pilgrimage. Historically this has been a story of unchecked impulses and reckless behaviour, so fittingly there were frank discussions on drugs, sex, and depression, not to mention an onslaught of girls squealing at the camera. But all things told, the kids in the programme came across surprisingly reasonable. In fact, any frightened parent might have walked away quietly reassured.

Interestingly we found the same thing. Separate to the ABC we interviewed five teenagers before and after schoolies to compare their expectations with reality. And what did we find? That Gen Z (those born after 1995) are as archetypally mature as we're told. Maybe they were glossing over the crazy stuff that actually happened, maybe they were straight up playing us because we're old. All we can say is that listening to their stories of responsible, considered enjoyment was almost a little disappointing.

Matt, 18

Before:
I'm going to the Gold Coast with some of my best friends. It costed over a grand so it'll be a repayment to my parents but I guess along with driving and turning 18, it's become a rite of passage. For that reason there's a lot pressure to do it right. My anticipation has been low most of the year because year 12 was pretty hectic. I was also the school captain so it was a balancing act. But it's definitely creeping up. I think when I get there I'll just stick with good people and take it easy. I just hope none of my friends get into a fight or we meet any toolies.

After:
It completely met my expectations. I loved it. The weather, the beaches, there was always something going on and the Gold Coast was just so well equipped. There were Red Frogs and police everywhere and every night I walked home I always felt safe. I heard about a fight but didn't see it. Also, I didn't take any drugs but I know that there were guys up there who did. If you wanted to, you'd have to go find it. Basically I just enjoyed the milestone. My first holiday without adult supervision. It's weird, but we were the adults.

Genevieve, 17

Before:
Looking forward to schoolies was the only thing that got me through exams. We're going to Port Douglas for a week. I won't be drinking or looking for a relationship or a one night stand though. All that stuff goes on in Byron and in Gold Coast apartments and I don't like it. It generally goes really badly and I don't want to go there. I'm just looking forward to some good weather, beaches, and snorkelling.

After:
It was great just being with friends and not thinking about school. Aside from that it was pretty chill. I'm glad that the school part of my life is over but at the same time it's sad because it's been my life for as long as I've known. I feel really empty, like I should be doing something right now but I'm not. I feel really, really numb. We talked about this feeling at schoolies. Life goes on after school and I think that's how milestones will always feel. Until you die maybe.

Beth, 18

Before:
People say expect to go on schoolies picking up every night, but I think it might be more about just having fun with your friends and anyway, I've got a boyfriend. I'm going to Byron because I didn't want to go to Surfer's because it's so structured and organised. Maybe I'm worried about schoolies though because I've got a bit of pressure from some of the girls. They can be a bit promiscuous, borderline alcoholic and crazy. That'll mean little sleep. We'll also go to Nimbin and get some cookies. I know that some people aren't interested in going to schoolies, but I think it's important to start the next part of my life. I've got a boyfriend going to Surfer's but he's probably more worried about me than I'm worried about him. I tend to be the wild one. I bet I'll throw up three nights at least.

After:
I threw up two nights, not three. Actually one of them was during the day. I felt sick in the morning, then ate a burger, then threw up on the circular floating ride at Dreamworld. The lifesavers had to clean it up. Aside from that it was the best week ever. 9.5 out of 10 although maybe more chilled than I thought. Considering that a few thousand people go to schoolies and there's only ever a few issues, I think the stories are exaggerated.

Jack, 17

Before:
I'm going to Rye (on the Victorian coast). I don't know much about schoolies because I'm from New Zealand but I've been told a few things. Having said that, I'm not going to drink because I'm 17 and I want to be responsible. And I've never tried marijuana and I trust my friends to not bring stuff like that. I just want to be around good people and have some good nights. People obviously play it up a lot, like schoolies is the best thing about year 12 and it does seem like that. It's definitely been the thing that got me through the year.

After:
We stayed up late so the days were pretty boring, just lazing around the house but when we did recover it was good. I didn't drink but there was a moment I thought about it. We were at the house one afternoon, in the back yard and my friend was drinking a beer. He said come on, it'll make it more fun but I said no. Sometimes I think drinking looks fun. People loosen up a little bit and they seem to just take everything less seriously. I think I'll want to experiment when I get older but not right now.

Elena, 18

Before:
We're going to Lorne (in Victoria) where my friend has an apartment. I'm excited to be with my friends for a week but I'm worried I'll get sick of them. My plan is to keep mornings to myself to get some exercise and then hang out during the day. The only thing I'm worried about is getting so drunk that I can't remember what I did. I never throw up but admittedly my friends are pretty into the idea of getting me to munt. I know a few of them are planning it. My anticipation level right now is low because I haven't organised anything but I think it'll go up. I'm expecting the whole thing will be nine out of 10.

After:
It was pretty relaxed. There wasn't much to do in Lorne at night so I think it was quieter than we expected. Out of 10 it was maybe a seven or eight, which is slightly less than I anticipated. I got drunk but didn't throw up and yes, I did actually go jogging so suck on that. The only issue was that the guys invited all these random girls over and the girl who owned the place was a bit upset. Then the next night the guys bought pot and smoked it in the house, which was an interesting choice. By the end, you could see that it had ruined this girl's week a bit. I know you might think that's boring but maybe the whole notion of what a schoolie is, that person who parties every night, takes drugs and throws up everywhere, maybe that isn't realistic anymore. My mum was giving me lectures about schoolies up until we left in the car, saying don't do drugs, don't go onto balconies when you're drunk. We didn't do any of these things. You hear this on the news but maybe it's a little inflated. Maybe it's just not as crazy as you want it to be.

Follow Julian at: @MorgansJulian