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“When I initially applied for the 2016 Deaf Children Australia Youth Grant, I asked for funding so that I could continue living at the University of Melbourne’s International House. I needed this funding so that I could focus on my studies and engage more within the community around me. At the time, I did not know exactly what opportunities would arise, only that I wished to take them as they came. Now, on the other side of the academic year, I can gratefully say how fortunate I was in terms of the various leadership and academic opportunities that came my way.

One such opportunity included becoming an involved member of the language exchange club. Before university, I was quite shy. This was largely due to my hearing impairment and the embarrassment I felt whenever I misheard someone (which was quite often). Since coming to International House however, my confidence has grown as my exposure to different people from all over the world has increased.

Furthermore, International House has provided me with a means of slowly overcoming my fear of accents through constant exposure. Therefore, joining the language exchange club at university marked a pivotal point in my personal self-growth. Not only did I join the club however. During the last AGM, I was voted in as the new language exchange club’s human resources manager. Now, not only do I have the confidence to talk to people who challenge my disability-related insecurities, but I have enough to hire them and manage their interpersonal relationships!

The improvement in my self-confidence and relationships with others has drastically improved my mental health. Consequently, my grades have also improved. Other factors that have made this possible include the tutoring I receive at International House along with the motivation I have acquired recently.

During my first year, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I should major in. That is, until I took the University of Melbourne’s first year sociology class. For the first time I felt simultaneously challenged and inspired. As I’ve continued my studies in sociology, I’ve realised that I’ve found something that not only do I find interesting, but that I can use to make the world a better place. Through sociology I can explore things I care about such as homelessness, disability, and gender issues in a way that can hopefully be implemented in the wider world.

By being able to focus on my studies I’ve been able to grow spiritually in a way I never could have expected. Indeed, studying sociology was what finally prompted to volunteer for the welfare committee at university and it was there that I discovered the biggest opportunity that has come my way all year.

While volunteering for the welfare committee, I was approached by the heads of the committee to run for student welfare officer in 2017. I was flattered and honoured. In the end however, I chose to run for a position on the disabilities council however as I felt it was apt.

As a disabled student at the University of Melbourne, there have been many times where I felt confused or isolated due to university disability policies. Their policy language is hostile in terms of putting all the onus on the student and services are bureaucratic and not transparent. Subsequently, even I have not been able to successfully register as a disabled student at the university despite having a severe mental illness and a moderate to severe hearing impairment.

Thus, I have made it my goal in 2017 to drastically improve the accessibility of disability services at the university.

None of this would have been possible however if I did not have the time to engage with my education. Thus, I am incredibly grateful to Deaf Children Australia for their support. Without them, too much of my attention would have necessarily been focused on securing my living arrangements and I never would have been able to run for the council or join a club or absorb myself in sociology degree. So once more thank you. You are changing lives.”