Finding a way

• Ruqia during a visit to North Lake late in 2023.

Ruqia Ahmadi arrived at the North Lake IEC late in 2017. She was born in Afghanistan but had spent most of her life in Pakistan, receiving little formal education.

Things moved quickly over the next 12 months. “I found great teachers at North Lake. The first was Terri who helped us all improve our English. I had a lot of help with my literacy from Jane in the Transition class.”

In July 2018 Ruqia transitioned from the IEC into mainstream Year 11 classes and her interest in science grew. “I enjoyed the science subjects with Belinda especially our SUBS in Schools project.”

Ruqia was team leader of the SUBS in Schools team that conducted the best sea trial in the technology challenge organised by the School Pathways Program and featuring teams from many WA schools.

By then she was 21-years-old and Ruqia discussed the possibility of university study with North Lake’s Settlement Officer Karen and made a number of applications. An acceptance from UWA came as a complete shock.

“It’s hard to explain the feeling. I thought, ‘I don’t know where I am, in the sky or on earth’. My parents were very happy and everyone was hugging me. I was in love with science and felt that this was the start of my career. I’m very glad I came to this school. North Lake showed me the way to go towards success.”

Ruqia’s last task at North Lake was as guest speaker at the IEC Achievement Ceremony in 2018 where she even stood in as “acting principal” handing out certificates to prize winners.

Ruqia as ‘acting principal’.

Then came the hard part. A student with a patchy educational past in Pakistan and six months in Year 11 in WA was off to university.

Soon Ruqia was going to classes and tutorials at UWA and meeting lecturers, coordinators and tutors. “Luckily I had good relationships with them all. Their message to me was, we are here to help but we want students to come to us. Don’t struggle on your own.”

Maths was a particular concern for Ruqia as she’d missed so many of the fundamentals but she got help and practiced and struggled through. On the weekend, away from uni, Ruqia needed to work to support herself. “I couldn’t ask for financial help from my parents. I worked at Aldi and they were good in allowing me to be rostered on Saturdays and Sundays.” In amongst the educational achievements, and struggles of university life, was a significant financial achievement – saving enough money to buy her own car.

Examinations are a big part of the university experience and were a great source of anxiety for Ruqia. “I cried in every corner of UWA before every single exam I was so nervous,” she recalled, “Before my crucial Maths Methods exam my coordinator told me to stop studying, go for a walk and drink some water. I passed with distinction, it was good advice!”

Ruqia spent a relatively short time at North Lake but she will always be grateful for the help she received from Belinda, Judy, Karen, Mike and others. “My base was from here, I was lost as to what I was going to do when I came here.

• Back at school with Judy, Belinda and her new car.


“If you love something and are passionate for it you can get there. I didn’t have good fortune and opportunity back home but I have it here and I have to use it. I found my way, I know where I am and what I’m going to do. I know how to build myself.”

Ruqia completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science specialising in Anatomy and Physiology with distinction and graduated from UWA in 2023. She began a new job in her field this year and has also been accepted into a Master of Neurology by coursework.

“My sister is now at uni. She is also crying. I told her that’s just the way it is and she will get through.”

• Ruqia cutting the celebratory cake with Belinda, Mary & Karen after being accepted into UWA.