Bridges to Higher Education Bridges to Higher Education

Erfaan Arif

Student at the University of Technology, Sydney

Two years ago when I was in high school I participated in the U@Uni Summer School program. As part of the program we got to visit university and study a chosen subject area. I chose film because I have always been a creative hands-on sort of person.

The program gave me the opportunity to explore university and get into a space I had not experienced before. At the time I was in year ten at school and wrapped up in my own little bubble, but this program gave me the chance to explore myself as a person along with the things I am most passionate about. I expected university to be daunting and massive. It was quite big, but going through the program during the first few days I realised everyone was really friendly and outgoing.

Summer School changed the way I saw school. I always wanted to do something quite big, but I never really knew how to. I was lacking the drive. Summer School really gave me that motivation and showed me what is out there; it made me realise there are people out there who can help, and there are courses out there that will pave the way for those creative and hard-to-get-into fields.

Going back into high school afterwards, I remember I was so committed to coming to UTS, so during my senior years I worked very hard to get here. Achieving that was a massive reward and it has been great ever since; it has been everything I expected.

The main thing I want to relay back to people is to definitely give university a go! Always take on opportunities, never say no! Always be a curious person! Remember if something doesn't work out, when one door closes another door opens. That's how it played out in my life so far, I have embraced opportunities like UTS Summer School and so many wonderful things have happened.

Catherine Myers - Head Teacher (Student Wellbeing and Success) at Lurnea High School

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Erfaan lacked confidence during Junior High School; he didn't really know his place in the world, felt different from other students and didn't know how to fit in. I think coming from a single parent situation and having few role models also affected him. All he knew was that he was creative and good at school.

I think Erfaan's view on the world changed the moment he attended Summer School. He found that there are creative people out there just like him. It made him see that his creativity could be something he could harness and it flourished in him because of it. Summer School gave Erfaan a purpose at high school; it changed his attitude and he ended up becoming school captain through the confidence he gained.

Our kids generally come from families that want better for their children, but they cannot offer the sort of first-hand experience that Summer School provides. They often haven't had educational opportunities themselves, especially at tertiary level. In the case of refugee families, many haven't attended high school.

Summer School motivates our students to go outside their comfort zone, to move beyond the five kilometre boundary in which they live, and aspire to something beyond. Our kids are smart, we just need to help them gain the confidence they need and give them access to people who have experienced higher education.

Through Summer School our students get the opportunity to experience university and explore a field they may be interested in. It gives them a sense that they can do it. It only takes one student to attend Summer School and they start breaking down these barriers, affecting fellow students and beyond which helps change the dynamic in the community.

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