Joseph Alkarra was born and raised in Damascus, the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic, and came to Australia as a refugee.
At school in Syria, Joseph was a keen linguist, learning English and French as additional languages on top of his native Arabic. He also studied an impressive list of compulsory Year 10 subjects including algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, biology, national education, geography, history, philosophy, and religion.
A Love of Language
It was language, and the English language in particular, that Joseph was passionate about. So when he arrived in Australia as a refugee it was one of the things he was most excited about.
“Right now I feel very blessed to have come here to such a beautiful country where English is the first language!”
Joseph has gone on to do Year 11 VCE here in Melbourne’s west and he’s now continuing his English studies along with computing (IT), physics, maths methods, specialist maths, and Arabic language.
Joseph received his first Western Chances Scholarship at the end of 2016.
“It did support my family and me financially a lot, but I believe that Western Chances did support me the most spiritually and helped me to do many activities outside the school atmosphere. They did push me to ‘get outside my box’ by encouraging me to attend to few camps which I think were the best activities to a person in my situation because they helped me a lot to get engaged with other people.”
Thanks to the support he has received, Joseph has been able to maintain a strong motivation to stay focused and create a bright future for himself and his family throughout the challenges of moving to Australia.
“When I first arrived I had some strange feelings, being away from my home for the first time. It was a bit hard to leave everything behind, but the promising future that my family and I were thinking about is what kept pushing us to improve our lives and try to be part of the Australian society.”
Having a supportive school community eased the transition for Joseph as he settled in to a new environment while studying.
“The only person I knew on my first day was my cousin. I thought it was terrifying to get in touch with people from different backgrounds before I went there, but on that day many people did welcome me and act very friendly. Since that day, teachers and students helped me a lot to feel more comfortable in my new life. “
Lord Somers Camp a highlight
Attending the Lord Somers Camp was a highlight for Joseph. The Lord and Lady Somers Camp is a partner of Western Chances. “The Big Camp” assists young people to develop communication and leadership skills, improve decision-making abilities, and increase self-confidence and self-esteem through participation in diverse group activities.
“Getting to know new people from many different backgrounds and hearing about their stories was my favourite part in Big Camp. Also, all the activities which took part on that spectacular week made it one of the most exotic and motivating experiences in my life.”
We are excited for Joseph’s bright future when he expresses such gratitude and optimism and his big dream includes,
“Being an active part of the great society I'm living in right now and trying to give back all the support they gave to people in tough situations.”
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