How a La Trobe scholarship changed asylum seeker Ben’s life

“I’m not sure if words can express how much a scholarship changes someone’s life from the bottom to the top.”

Ben Monishidi Mousavi left his extended family and the life he’d always known in Iran eight years ago. After arriving in Australia, he made a new life for himself, marrying and having two children.

He visited La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus and immediately fell in love with the place. While some of his friends chose to apply for a host of different universities, Ben knew La Trobe was the only place he wanted to go. He applied for the ASSC Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Scholarship and was successful.

For Ben, the scholarship has been life-changing. He lost a lot of confidence in the early days after arriving in Australia and gets emotional even thinking about that time today.

“The life of an immigrant is hard, but the life of an asylum seeker is even harder,” he says. “You experience a lot of hardship in your home country and then when you feel like you have been rescued or thrown a lifeline, the years in your new home are also extremely difficult. The language barrier is difficult, as is waiting for working rights.”

Ben didn’t think studying was on the cards, due to his financial situation. The scholarship changed that. It helped him in other ways too. Studying gave him a sense of purpose.

“I was extremely grateful for the opportunity,” he says. “I’m not sure if words can express how much a scholarship changes someone’s life from the bottom to the top.”

In 2019, he walked onto campus as a Bachelor of Commerce student, ready to make the most of his University experience.

Taking the leap into University life

Ben has dived into University life, getting involved in classes and outside opportunities too. He’s inspired by his lecturers and their depth of knowledge, and is in particular awe of his Finance Lecturer Dr Safi (Safi Safiullah).

Ben made a habit of attending his lectures and then going home to read as much as he could about the topics discussed so he could bring something to the table at his next lecture. Every time he did this, Dr Safi would match him with something even better. He also holds his subject coordinators in high regard, particularly Professor David Walker.

Not content with only building up his skillset in the classroom, Ben has made use of the University’s Career Ready service. The team helped him to polish his resume until it was just right, so he can put his best foot forward when applying for jobs. He’s also taken up the Learning Hub’s Peer Learning Advisor service, sharpening his referencing and essay writing skills.

“Each time I reach out to the La Trobe Community, there are always a lot of people on hand to help,” he said. “The best advice I could give to someone just starting out, whether they’re an asylum seeker or not, is to be active and engage in University life. There are so many opportunities available to you and people are just so willing to help.”

The shift to online learning during the pandemic has actually worked in Ben’s favour, as he enjoys the online method of delivery.

“La Trobe did an amazing job getting everything switched over,” he says. “The tutorials are recorded, so I can go back time after time to watch them again. It’s like having a professor available 24/7.”

He has excelled in Semester 1 this year, proudly acing his third year subjects.

Looking to the future

Ben chose to major in Financial Management as he feels he has a connection with numbers and mathematics. He’s also positive about the job opportunities his degree could lead to in the fields of accountancy and marketing.

As far as a five-year plan goes, Ben jokingly says it may be a ten-year plan, but someday he aspires to be like the CEO of Uber, who was once himself a refugee. 

Reflecting on how he manages family life, work and study, Ben acknowledges he may not be where he is today if it weren’t for the tremendous support of his wife. He feels really blessed to have her by his side. 

Ben is currently working at ASRC under a government initiative and is very grateful for that opportunity. 

He doesn’t yet have concrete plans for ‘life after La Trobe’, but he’d love to be able to pay it forward and give back to others in the same way that others have helped him.

At MyLaTrobe, we can’t wait to see what Ben does next.

About the ASRC Scholarship

Since 2016, the College commenced a scholarship program in partnership with the ASRC, offering two full-fee scholarships each year. This year the program has now been extended to both Colleges and La Trobe has committed to offering three scholarships a year for three years.