From Seeking Asylum to Studying Medicine

Soumiga Gopalakrishnan (BHlth ’21)
18 March 2022

Nine years ago, my family and I fled war in Sri Lanka. We travelled to Australia by boat and spent months living in detention centres before settling in Brisbane, where I finished my high-school education with dreams of attending university.

However, despite having the grades and achieving both dux and captain of my school, I did not know whether I would have the opportunity to go to university. Not because I didn't want to-I had dreamed of being a doctor from the age of five-but because asylum seekers are classed as 'international full-fee paying students', which meant I would not have access to student loans and would have to pay my fees upfront.

Thankfully, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt heard my story and urged me to apply for the ANU Humanitarian Scholarship, which would cover tuition and accommodation during my undergraduate degree. This outreach from the Vice-Chancellor was my first glimpse of the supportive community connections fostered by ANU and, upon hearing the news that I had received the scholarship, I could not wait to be part of that community.

This altruistic act made me realise that there are so many people connected to ANU who give back to the community through scholarships and sponsoring students. It inspired me to do something similar and, for me, medicine is the best way to do that.

Following the completion of my Bachelor of Health Science, I immediately applied to the ANU Medical School.  I also reached out to Professor Russell Gruen, Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, who helped me through the process of applying for another Scholarship. Professor Gruen made me feel better about my application - he was supportive and reassured me that everything would work out fine, and through him, I met others who also wanted the best for me.

The support system behind the ANU Medical School is amazing. Every single person at the School has inspired me to continue my journey in medicine, regardless of all the challenges I have faced.

Ever since I was little, as young as five years old, I wanted to become a doctor. And that never changed, even during hardship. I always knew I wanted to be in this field and help others. The ANU community has truly helped me move closer to achieving this goal.

So, my message to those who are starting university or want to start university but cannot see that happening, please do not give up. There are so many opportunities that you might not know exist, but make connections and through your connections, you will be able to achieve your dreams, no matter what

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