This January 26 will hold new significance for Simon Shahin, who will celebrate his first Australia Day since arriving in Sydney as a refugee from Syria last year.
An ambitious 22 year old, Mr Shahin has adjusted well to life in Australia. He has made new friends, run a marathon, completed work experience through Youth Collective’s Gateway to Your Future project, and was actively involved in the inaugural Techfugees Australia Hackathon in November.
Simon is also on track to fulfilling his lifelong goal of becoming a renewable energy engineer after recently being accepted to Western Sydney University’s engineering honours program.
Eager to absorb the diversity of Australian culture, Mr Shahin hopes to mark the national holiday with his first trip to the beach since leaving his home in Syria last August to escape the civil war.
“Because I’d never been to another country, except for neighbouring countries in the Middle East, I was initially very surprised when I arrived in Australia – a positive surprise – and truly overwhelmed all the time, but gradually, I absorbed this amazing country and got used to it,” Mr Shahin said.
After completing a series of pre-screening tests, Mr Shahin was delighted to be accepted to university in January – something he didn’t get the opportunity to do in his homeland.
“I’m now seeking to become a renewable energy engineer because I have lots of plans and ideas I’d like to innovate and invest in, and when I graduate, I hope to start building these projects which will contribute, in my opinion, immensely in this country,” He said.
Mr Shahin studied environmental science in Syria but was unable to move into engineering because of the conflict.
“I had to move to another city, where the engineering field was available, but then owing to the circumstances of the war, that wasn’t available anymore. So I kind of stopped – I didn’t achieve what I wanted to,” He said.
Mr Shahin is now on track to fulfil his ambition, and he believes a focus on achieving his goals has played a big part in his quick adjustment to life in Australia.
“Everything happens for a reason; there is a reason why I came here,” he said.
“From the first day I was here, it felt like home, really. If you know what you want and if you have goals, you can never be lost.”
Mr Shahin acknowledged the support his family received from Settlement Services International (SSI) in the initial stages of resettlement, noting that the orientation courses and activities he received equipped him with local knowledge to adjust to life in Australia.
He took part in activities run by Youth Collective, an initiative for youth from refugee and diverse cultural backgrounds, which helped him to gain an insight to the local jobs market. He was also an active participant at the TechFugees Australia Hackathon which brought together over 150 people from different backgrounds to create innovative technology solutions to support refugees.
“Moving to another country, it has different policies, distinct regulations naturally, and it is wise to adapt to them first thing. You have to know your rights, what to do, what the limits are, and how to behave correctly,” Mr Shahin said.
“SSI showed us the path; they equipped us.
“Am I feeling at home? Yep, I’m feeling so at home, and I’m seeking as much as possible to become one of the locals.”