La Trobe 50: Share Your Story – Abdifatah Ibrahim

Bachelor of Accounting

I grew up in a family 9 kids plus mum and dad. I don’t know if I ever had any role models growing up in Africa. Actually, I didn’t have role models. There were none. I want to dedicate my life to inspiring others. At the end of the day, we did escaped war in East Africa. I would hate to waste that opportunity we were given to start afresh in Australia.

2006 in August we arrived in Australia. I was born in Somalia. My parents knew that Somalia wasn’t going in the right direction economically and we needed to leave. We spent some time in Saudi Arabia and even Syria. It was tough. We were refugees. We did not have much. We were bought over to Australia under the United Nations. I couldn’t speak a word of English, I didn’t know much. I actually thought Australia was in Europe!

Now these are just memories. Distant memories. I use them to inspire me at university.

“I want people in my community to know that they can achieve anything they want to… they just have to work for it.”

What do you like most about your course?
I love working with numbers. I love understanding concepts. I prefer that to memorising. Perhaps that’s why I never liked science or even English. Growing up I was always good with money. What’s funny is I’m the third youngest in a family of 9 but my parents still asked me and knew that I could budget properly divide money well.

Looking back to high school, was your atar what your expected?
It was alright. Just alright. I was a focused individual. My goal was to be first in my family to go to university so there was a fair bit of pressure to do well. I was very well supported though by my family.

What support did La Trobe offer you when you started year 1?
There’s the equity and diversity office, they provided a tremendous amount of help to myself. They offered me a tutor and back then they gave free laptops. All that was so helpful. Getting the tutor was priceless. Not many students know about it but they should. It changed my life.

What do you do for fun on campus? What’s a typical day for you?
I actually leave very close to the university but I try not to stay back a lot on campus. There are too many distractions. I come in a few hours before class, to read my notes, to recap.

What’s one word to describe la trobe?
Diversity. You see a lot in the Agora. A lot of people, a lot of cultures and it makes me eager to want to learn about their cultures. I think the La Trobe culture attracts international students very well. I’ve also had a passion for travelling. The need to learn other cultures saw me go to America for an exchange. I went to the University of semester.

Lets talk about your exchange experience in New York, how did that come about?
I heard that La trobe was giving students the opportunity to travel abroad. I did my research and I thought it was worth it. The United States is a very impressive country. I went to the University for New York. I loved the friendships I made and the networking opportunities. All that stuff is priceless. It was my first time travelling without my family, but it gave me independence.

What has been your greatest achievement in university thus far?
I think being a role model for my community. There are not many people in my community who went to university. I want to give back, help those younger than me. I didn’t have many people to look up to whilst I was in high school. To have children look at me and ask me for advice is priceless.

What advice do you have for first year?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know that a lot of staff at La Trobe are eager to help if asked. Be yourself, don’t be afraid of standing out and being you. Making friends can be tough but La Trobe has a lot of clubs and societies. Find people who like the same things you like and go from there. La trobe actually forces you to make friends and socialise. We do so many group projects in class. Some work out some don’t, but we learn and try again. I still talk to guys I met in group projects last year and the year before.

What do you want to do with your life?
Chief financial officer, hopefully, not for a big four bank or an accounting firm but a non-for profit organisation. I really feel pushed to give back and help those under me, in worse situations than me. We were lucky enough to escape poverty and war. I cannot take that for granted. I want people in my community to know that they can achieve anything they want to… they just have to work for it.

You’ve contributed a lot to La Trobe; the creation of the Islamic society is credited to you among others. Why do all that when your aim was to graduate as quickly as you can so you could work?
We came together and we thought why don’t we create a group where Islamic students can learn about their culture, language, foods and religion. Most of the Islamic students at La Trobe were born in this country and do not know much about their culture. This society was definitely needed.

What motivates you?
My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be here. I’m old enough to remember that what we went through was not easy. I’m very lucky I did not lose any of my close family members, but my parents motivate me, everyday.

What is the quote you live by?
Malcolm x – education is the passport for the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

By Kevin Kapeke interviewing Abdifatah Ibrahim

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