Mustafa’s second chance at life
For Mustafa, now in his third year of a civil engineering degree at Monash University, life hasn't always been plain sailing. His family fled their home country of Afghanistan when the civil war started and lived as refugees in Pakistan, where Mustafa was born, for almost two decades.
Life as refugees in Pakistan for the Mirza family was a precarious and unsafe one. Being part of the Hazara ethnic minority, the family had sought protection from persecution.
"Back then in Pakistan, our situation was really tough. I remember I was very introverted and housebound, because the risk to go outside was too high. Everything we did was controlled by my dad in every detail," said Mustafa.
Like many Hazara refugees in Pakistan, Mustafa does not have legal documentation such as a birth certificate and still doesn't know exactly how old he is.
Around the age of 15, Mustafa got a second chance at life when his family made their way to Australia to start over, far away from war and oppression. His Australian education, which was very different from the limited English schooling he got in Pakistan, opened new doors for him.
"My high school education made a big impact on my life. The teachers really supported me to make something out of my life and encouraged me to go to university," said Mustafa.
"After high school, I thought about finding a job, but instead I decided to pursue university studies. I did not want to live a life full of regrets."
Because of his visa status and his family's difficult financial situation, finding a spot at university was hard for him as he wasn't eligible for most studies or scholarships. He met with Monash where he was informed about the Asylum Seekers Scholarship and the University supported him with the application.
"To my great surprise and relief I got accepted for the scholarship, that changed my life," said Mustafa.
The Asylum Seekers Scholarship is one of Monash's raft of equity scholarships committed to helping people from diverse backgrounds attend university. It gives recipients such as Mustafa full tuition fees, plus $5000 a year for living expenses.
Before starting his preferred course at Monash University, he needed to complete the Monash College Diplomas pathway.
"I needed a pathway to university, but also really needed some help with English. At high school I focused on science and maths subjects because I wanted to become an engineer, but that meant my English wasn't at a university required level. Monash College really supported me in getting ready for university," said Mustafa.
Mustafa worked incredibly hard to become the best version of himself. When he's not out on the basketball court, he's reading scientific articles, and his civil engineering studies are thriving.
He's grateful to his parents who have supported him through his study. They are beyond thrilled that he is studying to become an engineer.
"Studying here at Monash is such a privilege and my parents are already proudly talking about graduation," said Mustafa.
Mustafa will be the first of his family to obtain a university degree, but not the last. "My little brother just finished a Monash College Diplomas pathway as well, with the same scholarship I received. It's very rewarding for me that because of my help with his scholarship application, I was able to change his life as well," said Mustafa.
A bright future
The future shines bright for Mustafa, who is dreaming about his next steps after his undergraduate degree. He would love to start a masters degree, but will need a job first to become financially stable.
"My parents supported me through my studies. As the oldest son, it is my duty to now support them, so I might go find a job after graduation instead of studying a masters. One day, I would also like to see the world and go travelling, when I have some more financial stability."
"You know, this year I visited my high school again to talk about my scholarship and university studies. That was my highlight. I am able to transform others' lives, such as my Afghan friends, just by informing them about their possibilities and the scholarships at Monash."