When first-year La Trobe student Nancy was growing up in Burma, a university education seemed far beyond her reach.
At 13 years old, Nancy fled violence and persecution in Burma’s Chin State alongside her sister. After almost seven years in Malaysia, the sisters arrived in Australia where they were reunited with their aunt and uncle.
“We had to leave Burma because of the government and the army,” Nancy explains. “It was very dangerous, and very hard for us to have a normal life because we were unable to access healthcare, education and other services.”
Nancy’s parents died when she was young, so she relied on the support of extended family in Australia. After arriving in Melbourne she attended language school to improve her English for four months, before being told she was ready to transition into high school.
“I never thought that I would be able to go to senior school because we didn’t have money at all growing up,” Nancy says. “So when I was in Burma I thought that I would go to work on the farm – that was my future.”
Instead, Nancy relished her education, and at the end of Year 12 decided she wanted to become an accountant.
“I really wanted to go to uni but I didn’t think it would be possible because I had to pay fees upfront. I decided I would try, so I borrowed money from people in my community who wanted to see me go to uni,” she says.
Then Nancy learnt of her successful application for a La Trobe Access Scholarship, awarded to students commencing tertiary studies for the first time who can demonstrate financial hardship or educational disadvantage.
“When I received the letter from La Trobe, I was so happy I was crying,” she says. “I was so happy because I was able to pay off my debts and now my uni fees are paid. I feel so much more relaxed.”
“I’m just so happy to be at La Trobe. I love Australia because we are safe, we can study, and our futures can be whatever we want.”
Nancy says she hopes to work in a bank after university and teach financial literacy to refugees and migrants.
“Most people who come from my country to Australia, they come as a refugee and they don’t always understand money. So if I work in a bank I can help them and also translate for them – this is something I’m already doing,” she says.
Nancy says she is extremely grateful for La Trobe staff who donate to scholarships like the one she received.
“I’m so appreciative of La Trobe staff – they share their knowledge, their wisdom and even their money. I respect them so much.”