By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Twelve long, determined years.
After arriving as a refugee, that’s how long it took Mustafa Ayobi to learn English, study at uni and land his “dream” engineering job.
Keeping his eyes on his goal, Mr Ayobi has started work designing and building electrical sub-stations at Metro Trains.
He has no complaints about the early-morning daily commute from Noble Park to West Sunshine.
“When I came here I had this dream that I had to study. It was really challenging. I didn’t speak a word of English.
“But I set myself a target and I worked really hard.”
In 2008, he arrived as an 18-year-old with his family without a word of English, having fled from danger in Afghanistan.
An uncle told him he could achieve his dream vocation if he had a good mentality. But there were plenty of naysaying teachers and friends who said he wouldn’t make it.
Teachers said he couldn’t compete with uni graduates whose first language was English.
Other friends urged him to earn money in trades or factory work, rather than scrapping to support his young family as a student.
But all the while, despite adversity, Mr Ayobi didn’t give up.
“I thought it’s not impossible. I’m focussed on the positive and not the negative.”
First, he studied English at AMES Australia’s language school in Noble Park. He learned nuances from watching TV.
Enrolled at Year 10 as a young adult, he struggled with language barriers as well as being several years older than classmates.
He battled on, completing Year 12 in Perth while his family remained in Melbourne. There he met his wife Yalda.
For six years, the father of two studied engineering at La Trobe University while juggling part-time work to support his young family.
But the struggles didn’t end there. For 12 months, he suffered repeated knockbacks as he sought work.
AMES Australia’s refugee support and mentoring program helped him to refine his CV writing and interview techniques.
“I was scared of interviews and answering questions. After they helped me, I was pretty confident.”
Mr Ayobi is the first from his family to study at university. His bold example has inspired his younger brothers to study criminology and IT.
Aside from driving his kids to sports, Mr Ayobi finds time to volunteer at Monash Health on weekends. He helps with language translation and administration.
He hopes to build a school in his Afghanistan to help more kids get an education.
“I would tell others to never give up on your dreams, whatever minor challenges are on the way.
“Australia is a land of opportunity. There’s a lot of support.
“You just have to work a little bit hard.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it.”