I am from Syria; this is my Australian story. On 23 February 2017, stars filled the sky and at 2am I arrived in Australia. My family had fled from the civil war in Syria, and we were starting a new life in Toowoomba.

My first impression of this country was how peaceful it was, there was 24/7 electricity and hot water! But most of all, I was overwhelmed by the language. I had only learned basic English in primary school in Damascus but I had to start school only a few days after our arrival. I was enrolled in Year 7 in a magnificent Catholic school called St Joseph’s College.

On my first day, I was petrified! I was completely lost. People would talk to me and I struggled to understand a single word they said! Looking back, I shouldn’t have worried. All I needed was time to adapt to my new life and its challenges. I was very supported and encouraged to aspire to success.

The St Joseph’s College community made me the person I am today. I would like to name a few teachers who helped me: Mr Goodall, Mrs Spain, Mrs Reed and Ms Johnstone from Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office. I am also grateful to Ms Heather D’Arcy, College Counsellor, who is always there to listen and to support me.

Four years later, I am in Year 11. I am studying General English, General Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Religion. Next year I will also sit the Senior Arabic Exam. My ambition is to go to university in Melbourne and study medicine. I can confidently say that the fish, once out of water, is now swimming happily.

I hope my story inspires others, especially young women, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Nothing is too hard if you have the will and the ambition to succeed.

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