St James asylum seeker a step closer to becoming a doctor 

Soumi Gopalakrishnan is one step closer to her dream of becoming a doctor in regional Australia, due to her schooling and a scholarship at ANU

Walking into her first university lecture this week, Soumi Gopalakrishnan moved a step closer to her dream of becoming a doctor but just four months ago tertiary education felt out of reach.

Despite being the school captain of her inner-Brisbane college (St James College) and topping her graduating cohort, Ms Gopalakrishnan’s asylum seeker status left her future in doubt.

“We hear about how refugees go through everyday stuff but we don’t really focus on how especially students go through school and what happens after graduating,” she said.

Asylum seekers are classed as international full-fee-paying students without access to HECS-HELP loans, meaning for many, university is not an option.

But a rare and lucrative scholarship to the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra offered the young woman free tuition and accommodation while she studied a Bachelor of Health Science.

The Tamil asylum seeker fled Sri Lanka with her family five years ago and spent several months living in detention centres before settling in Brisbane.

Ms Gopalakrishnan said the experience fuelled a desire to work as a doctor in regional Australia.

“Being an asylum seeker, there wasn’t a lot of help from the Government itself but there was a lot of help from the community,” she said.

After sharing her fears about her future with the ABC in November, Ms Gopalakrishnan was inundated with offers of support from across the country.

Her case caught the eye of ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt who urged her to apply for the university’s humanitarian scholarship designed for students from a refugee background.

Ms Gopalakrishnan attended high school at St James College in inner-Brisbane which waives school fees for asylum seeker families.

Principal Ann Rebgetz said the teenager was a role model for dozens of other students at the school who faced an uncertain fate after graduation.

Source: ABC News