Success Stories

From the first day I arrived in Australia, it felt like home. Everyone gets homesick sometimes, but if you have goals and dreams, it constantly drives you forward and takes your mind off the past.

Like other refugees, I left behind family and friends when I journeyed from Syria to Australia last August. Australia is quite different to Syria and I’ve learnt a lot already, but I’m still discovering new things each day.

I often think about what life would be like if we had stayed in Syria despite the conflict. But I firmly believe everything happens for a reason; there’s a reason life brought me here.

Before arriving in Australia, my travels had largely consisted of regional trips to neighbouring countries in the Middle East, so at first, I was very overwhelmed. Everything was different of course – the people, the places, and the customs – but still, I was thrilled to be in a country where I was able to fulfil and accomplish my goals.

Former refugee Simon Shahin standing in front of a tree.
Former refugee Simon Shahin is making the most of his opportunities.

I had to adjust to new regulations and values, but I learned the ropes quickly. It’s a faster pace of life here, and I also had to get used to the diverse but beautiful scenery – even seeing the iconic Sydney Opera House in real life was an intensely overwhelming experience.

The job hunting process was also worlds apart from what I was used to. In Syria, finding a job is about who you know, and most people find work through relatives or friends, and sometimes utilizing the newspapers ads. In Australia, personal networks and newspapers take a back seat to the internet.

Luckily, I had a guiding hand. A not-for-profit humanitarian services organisation, Settlement Services International (SSI), equipped me with the local knowledge I needed to navigate my way in a new country.

Australia has great programs to help refugees integrate into their new communities and my experience was no exception.

One of the initiatives that had a particularly positive impact on me was a youth employment forum organised by SSI last year, where I learned what employers look for, how to present myself during interviews, and the best way to write a resume.

Gradually, I have acclimatised and begun to absorb everything this amazing country has to offer. Five months on, I’m starting to feel like one of the locals – I even applied for university, and have been accepted to study engineering at Western Sydney University. I am overjoyed to have this opportunity in front of me which will help me achieve my life long goal of becoming a renewable energy engineer – a dream that simply wasn’t possible in Syria.

I think it was Steve Jobs who said, that those who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are actually the ones who do so. I have lots of plans and ideas I would like to bring to fruition, and I am looking forward to the day I can contribute to this wonderful country that welcomed me with a warm heart.

I’m hoping Australia will give me the chance to achieve the dream I couldn’t in Syria.

Simon Shahin

This story first appeared on ABC Open