By Frances Atkinson

    For many, the decision about when and where to go university simply involves checking out course guides online, turning up to Open Days and thinking about which university is in the best position to help them land their career goals. But not for all.

    In 2013, Sharuk and his family fled Sri Lanka spending two weeks travelling to Australia by boat.

    After initially arriving at the Cocos Keeling Islands they were moved to a detention centre on Christmas Island, followed by another move to a centre in Darwin, then Adelaide and finally Melbourne.

    Despite all the upheaval and the pressures that come with finding your way in a new country, study was something Sharuk always wanted to do, so when he discovered that Victoria University (VU) offered an Asylum Seeker Scholarship, he applied with the assistance of the Liaison Officer. Unsure of his success, Sharuk worked tirelessly towards saving up-front the fees to cover his course.

    “Throughout that one year I worked a lot at Macca’s. I did long hours, like maybe 40 hours a week. And then, on top of that, I used to drive for Uber and make DoorDash deliveries. I started saving and didn’t spend a single cent,” said Sharuk.

    After applying for the scholarship, Sharuk slept with his phone under his pillow (with the volume set to the loudest setting), to ensure he didn’t miss any notifications about news of his application. Then one day, the much-awaited email landed.

    “I was just so happy. I told my parents and they were really happy for me as well”.

    Sharuk started at VU in 2021, and that found adjusting to life as a student took time. In those early days, he was very quiet. “I didn’t talk a lot and I was a bit of an introvert”. Now he’s a self-described ‘people person’ and is more comfortable when it comes to socialising and making new friends.

    Initially studying a Certificate in Tertiary Preparation, this more confident Sharuk is now in his second year of the Bachelor of Biomedical Science, and is considering a career as a pharmacist.

    When he was looking for education options, finding a university that empathised with his struggles as an Asylum Seeker was important.  “VU gave me an opportunity no other university gave me.”

    Sharuk is proud to be the first in his family to attend university, and his younger brother isn’t far behind. “I can’t say I inspired him. He’s smart and ambitious. He inspired himself!”

    Victoria University is proudly diverse and provides a world-class education to anyone willing to strive to achieve their career goals. The Asylum Seeker Scholarship at VU is a way of supporting students with aspirations to start their tertiary journey who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity to access all that a university experience has to offer.

    If it wasn’t for the generosity of financial donors, Sharuk’s dream of attending university would have been almost impossible to achieve. “They are thinking about the people who are disadvantaged and helping them. I am grateful and thankful.”


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