30.09.2021

A scholarship that helps you discover your best self

By Lord Thabet, Westpac Scholar, 2019 Young Technologist, University of Wollongong

My tech journey started when I arrived in Australia in 2016 after fleeing with my family from Iraq. I was 16 years old and had no knowledge or experience of the English language. I studied English for six months and decided to challenge myself and start year 11 in high school so I didn’t fall behind.  

Six months of language study was not enough. I faced a lot of challenges. I could understand the task, I would know the answer in my head. But I struggled to write. Through these difficulties, I discovered my love of maths and my passion for technology. 

Through my study, I challenged myself to significantly improve my English language to prepare myself for university. At the end of year 11, my teachers were impressed with the amount of language improvement that started to show up in my performance.

At the end of year 12 I decided to study Telecommunication Engineering.  I applied to the University of Wollongong (UOW) through Early Entry. It was close to home, but more importantly it was one of the best universities for engineering with a high ranking and good reputation. UOW offered me a place in Telecommunication Engineering (Honours) based on my high school achievements.

When I first heard about the Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship, I was not really sure if I should apply. My family encouraged me, so I did. I had an interview and talked about my interest in technology and maths, and about myself. They were interested in hearing what my ambitions and aspirations were.

When I first found out I’d received the scholarship, I thought the best part was going to be the funding to support my studies. But after attending the annual Westpac Scholars Summit for two days, meeting all the passionate people across Australia that make up the Westpac 100 Scholars Network (W100), I realised I had found a treasure full of networking and development opportunities.

This scholarship has given me so many opportunities to work on myself and improve my skills. I lacked leadership skills but through the support of Westpac Scholars Trust and the W100 I’ve developed these, and I am now a W100 University Ambassador. This role has given me the confidence to take on other leadership roles such as being an Executive Member in Women in STEM and Engineers Australia Ambassador at my university.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the transition to remote study, this year I was also named in the top 5% of students at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Science for Wollongong. I’ve also just completed my first professional internship with Optus thanks to CareerSeekers, an organisation that helps refugees and asylum seekers find meaningful employment in Australia.  

So for me, being a Westpac Scholar means having another family who cares, supports and encourages you. I was myself when I applied, and Westpac saw something special in me that I never knew was there. I’m very glad I did apply because without Westpac and University of Wollongong’s help and support, I would never be where I am in now.

Applications are now open for 2022 Westpac Young Technologists Scholarships. 35 scholarships are awarded annually across five universities. To find out more visit the Westpac Scholars Trust website.