Graduating college far away from Guinea refugee camps
ONLY one year ago, Rugiatu Kamara spoke little English and knew very few people in Rockhampton.
But yesterday, with a business diploma in one hand and newly found confidence in the other, Rugiatu and her 17 classmates at Smart City Vocational College celebrated their graduation.
Smart City's campus manager Maddie Whaitiri held back her emotions as she watched Rugiatu smiling and happily chatting in English to her fellow students.
"A year ago she wouldn't do that," Maddie said.
"She had to work harder than anyone… English isn't her native tongue and she didn't know anyone.
"She struggled, but she kept at it."
Being photographed with a Diploma of Business and a Diploma of Management in hand is a world away from the refugee camp in Guinea, where Rugiatu lived with her 11 brothers and sisters for 10 years.
They had fled their home in Sierra Leone during the war that killed her parents and at 23, she has little memory of them now.
"I'm very happy here… it's different, but I got the support I needed and it changed the way I think," Rugiatu said.
"It took me a long time to get used to the changes… but that's what I love about Rockhampton, it's smaller and I love getting to know everyone."
The future for Rugiatu and her classmates is now about tomorrow.
Some are ready for the workforce and others, like Rugiatu, are preparing for more study.
With her sights set forward, she is planning for a career in health management.
"I want to go to university now and do a Bachelor of Business," she said.
"I also want to do a certificate in aged care."
Yesterday's celebration was a big occasion with family and friends invited to the lunch and presentation.
"Some of these students have never studied before," said Maddie.
"It's a big deal."