I would like to share an inspiring tale about the miraculous journey that Zaki Haidari has made to get him where he is today, and Embassy Sydney‘s small but significant part in it. I am so proud to be part of this story, albeit a dot-sized speck, a nearly faceless, nameless movie extra. We all play a part in the transformational experiences that all students at Embassy English have.
Zaki was born in Afghanistan. At age 17, a high school student, he fled for his life as he was in indescribable danger. He traveled to Indonesia, and then boarded a people-smuggling boat. This was supposed to be a 24 hour journey to Australia to seek asylum as a refugee. After 5 days and 5 nights floating, lost at sea, boat breaking, no food, no water, no sleep, Zaki was convinced he was dead. The Australian navy rescued the boat and passengers and took them to Christmas Island for mandatory detention (as is Australia’s highly contentious immigration and border protection policy).
He was detained there for one month before being transferred to Hobart, Tasmania, where he was again detained for a further listless three months languishing in limbo. From there he was sent by immigration to ‘resettle’ in a community in Sydney. He was granted a bridging visa but had only $100 to survive the first 2 weeks before he was allowed social security support. Oddly, he was not granted legal work rights. He remembers distinctly the heart-sinking dilemma of buying a hamburger: satisfying his hunger but spending 10% of all of his money…
It was in Sydney that things changed. Through a friend, Zaki met John Martin of Martin College (now simply called Martin). Zaki told John his story and how he had had to abandon his high school studies to flee. Zaki told John his hopes, dreams and aspirations. John listened. It was from this meeting that Zaki’s life changed and a solid friendship formed. John offered Zaki a full scholarship to undertake a Diploma of IT. However, Zaki needed to satisfy the pre-requisite English level.
John helped Zaki enrol in a ten-week EAP program at Embassy English. That is where our paths crossed.
Zaki: It was so good to be in a class with people with the same level of English as me. My confidence with English really started there. Before that, English was an obstacle, a marker of my difference. I was quite shy because of my English. The diversity of nationalities in the class was amazing. Here I was, a young man from Afghanistan, surrounded by all of these incredibly different people. Not only did they have different nationalities, but different first languages, cultures, and backgrounds… My spoken and written English improved quickly beyond my wildest dreams. My world changed.
Zaki: Making friends with students from all corners of the world and sharing meals with them.
Zaki: My dream was to get a degree. After completing EAP, I did a Diploma of IT. Now, I have started a Bachelor of Business and Marketing. Again, all with Study Group! In fact, now I work for Study Group on the Student Engagement Team helping students with job readiness. I help them develop the skills they need for employment. Also, I won the International Student of the Year Award NSW 2015. I was up on stage at the Sydney Opera House!
Zaki: To give back. I love helping people. I love multiculturalism. I love humanity.
Zaki: Absolutely! The nationality mix and diversity were amazing. It helped me to speak up. My teachers John and Angela were fantastic. Angela was an incredible teacher, so knowledgeable and so nurturing. John was the perfect mix of serious and not. He was a friend, mentor, but he pushed. He really helped me get the results I needed. They both helped me feel more confident by developing my speaking and writing skills in particular.
Zaki: The difficulty of the pronunciation. There is not usually much logic in the relationship between letters and sounds- the way a word is written and how you say it.
What is your favourite word in English?
What are your three favourite places in your new home country Australia?
Zaki: Auburn, it’s just so multicultural, everyone is welcome. The Opera House, it’s where I was awarded a great honour. The Study Group office, it’s where I work and represents opportunity and good fortune to me.
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