Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook graduate Muayad Alyousuf shares his journey from fleeing war-torn Iraq to finding HSC success in Australia.

The Good Samaritan Catholic College Vice Captain and graduate scored an ATAR of 96.10 in his 2021 HSC, achieving Band 6’s in Advanced Mathematics, Studies of Religion I and Business Services Examination.

But his road to HSC success was harder than most. 

In 2014, Muayad was forced to flee his hometown of Mosul when ISIS insurgents overtook the city.

Two years later, Muayad and his family would arrive in Australia, facing the daunting task of restarting their lives in a foreign land.

In this Q&A, Muayad recounts some of the challenges he overcame in his pursuit of an education. 

Congratulations Muayad on your results! What was your reaction when you saw them? 

Muayad: When I saw my HSC results I was content with what I had but disappointed in Chemistry as I was hoping for a Band 6! Nevertheless, I was still happy that my lowest subject was an 87! 

My ATAR reaction was priceless. I was hoping to achieve a 95+ in order to reward the effort that I have put into my studies for the past 13 years. When I opened that ATAR page and saw 96.10 all I could do was laugh. After looking at my ATAR my parents realised what a massive achievement their son had accomplished!

Can you tell us a bit about your journey from Iraq to Australia?

Muayad: I will always say this: if my journey from Mosul to Australia was a movie on Netflix, it would probably be the number one streaming movie! 

It all began on 10 June 2014 when ISIS came into Mosul – that was the ‘Fall of Mosul’. We left at 2am on that day without taking anything except for a bag of clothes and essentials. 

We were a big family living in one house (11 people) and on that night we fit everyone in one seven-seater car. You can imagine all the crying and the horror within all of us, and at the time I was the oldest – at 11 years old! out of six children in the house. 

There were so many bullets and missiles above us whilst driving that the sky was so bright we almost thought it was daylight at 2 in the morning! 

We attempted to escape to a safer area, a village that my grandma used to live in. The drive from my house to that village takes 45 minutes under normal circumstances, however on that day it took us 23 hours to get to it as all the roads were blocked and we had to take the desert road to get there safely. 

We stayed in the village (called Alqosh) for around two months until 6 August when my Dad’s uncle came banging at the door warning that we had to leave. 

We again packed everything we could pack and headed to the north of Iraq on the Iraqi-turkish border line. 

My Dad and uncle’s friends gave us their house and we settled there for 15 days. We then found an apartment in Duhok, a city in northern Iraq, and we stayed there to try and settle for a while and sort things out. 

Whilst we were in Duhok my Dad received a phone call saying that he had lost all his wealth as everything he had was taken by ISIS. 

After the phone call my Dad and uncle had the final decision of leaving as there was nothing left in Iraq that gave the hope of returning back to normal. 

We left for Jordan on 1 November 2014 with the intention of seeking settlement in countries like Australia, Canada or America. After various complications and a fight against nerves, time and poor health, we arrived in Australia on the 18 October 2016. 

That was when everything restarted for me and my family – a whole new life, or as my dad says ‘a whole new opposite life, where even the steering wheel is on the opposite side’. 

We arrived with no English, but with determination, faith and a strong belief in God’s plan, we settled and finally felt a sense of ‘home’. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced when you first came to Australia and how did you overcome them?

Muayad: The frustration of starting a new life was the main challenge. My Dad especially suffered from this a lot, where he always remembers how successful he was and all the effort that he put in for 30 years, and watch it go away overnight. 

The fact that I did well in my studies and persevered to do my best has helped him definitely forget the past injustices that he endured.Secondly, and obviously, learning the English language was not the easiest of things to do. 

Even though I went to an intensive English centre, all of my classmates were Arab, so we all would speak Arabic to one another. This later made things difficult when I moved to Good Samaritan as there weren’t many students that spoke Arabic, so I had to listen extra carefully in order to understand what everyone was saying.

How did your school and your teachers support you throughout your HSC?

Muayad: They were all very understanding and supportive of my situation, and I in return tried to pay them back by appreciating all their efforts and getting a good ATAR to demonstrate to them the fruits of their jobs!

What are your plans now for 2022? 

Muayad: I am planning on studying Optometry at UNSW. I am also planning on getting a job in order to begin having financial stability in my life, receive my own income and feel a sense of responsibility. 

I am also going to attempt the UCAT [University Clinical Aptitude Test] in the hope of seeking medicine or dentistry next year, or the year after in case I do not like Optometry, which I am sure I will!