For BSSC Year 12 student, Jibril Ong, moving away from his home in the Philippines to study in Bendigo, at the start of 2022, was a huge decision for him and his family.

“The Philippines’ employment opportunities are not good,” Jibril says. “It’s only the very wealthy who are truly secure.”

It was the opportunities of an Australian education that motivated Jibril’s life-changing move and it has required a great deal of self-reliance and resilience on his part.

Jibril’s grandmother is supporting him to be here, he lives with a local host family, and he is also working part-time at McDonalds to help pay his way.

“Perhaps one day I will be the one supporting my grandmother,” he muses.

Jibril recalls being surprised by the extent of opportunities most Australians take for granted—including freedom and individuality, but he says he arrived fearful he would be disliked.

“As I spoke to people and got to know them, I realised Australia was not like that,” he says.

Jibril’s family live in a coastal city on the southern-most island of the Philippine archipelago but he would love to bring his mum to Australia one day.

He’d also love for his friends from the Philippines to have the opportunities he’s having.

“I would recommend coming to Australia and particularly this college,” he says, “despite the huge changes I’ve had to make.”

The differences between Filipino and Australian language and culture have been a major adjustment for Jibril—as they are for most international students.

“The way English is spoken here is also very different to the English I learnt at school in the Philippines.”

One of the things Jibril enjoys about Australia is our four-season weather.

“In the Philippines it’s either summer—and typhoons—or the dry season which is still warm,” he says with a laugh. “It’s hardly ever cold.”

(The Philippines is above the equator, so its rainy season is during Australia’s winter and its dry season over our summer.)

“People have an idea that the Philippines is not safe, but it’s a peaceful country and I miss so many things—my family, my friends and the food.”

Jibril also misses his martial arts teacher.

“I was doing Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Ju Jitsu,” he says. “My grandfather and coach were really important role models for me. They taught me everything.”

Jibril loves martial arts enough to dream of becoming a full-time professional fighter. But he knows, even with four training sessions a week, he is not training hard enough to win big competitions.

In light of this, and partly because a number of people in his family are nurses, Jabril is planning to follow in their footsteps when he finishes VCE.

“At BSSC I’m already learning so much in Biology and PE about how the human body works,” he says.

“I’m also increasing my life knowledge, learning from watching how people respond to different situations and I’m forming new friendships.”

Jibril says he is more confident with his studies this year and is enjoying Maths Methods, Biology, PE, Legal Studies and English.

The discipline Jibril learnt through martial arts is coming in very handy, giving him the structure he needs to keep on top of his workload.

“I’m already 19, so I need to focus,” he says. “After school, I train, shower, eat and study. I also fit a part-time job into my schedule.”

Jibril believes self-discipline is much more important than simple motivation when it comes to getting things done.

“Motivation can rise and fall but discipline does not rely on how you feel.

“Without discipline I would just fall asleep doing my homework and then I would stress when things weren’t done,” he says. “And stress is very bad for your health.”

Jibril believes the struggles he’s had have only made him a better person.

“If I didn’t learn from these things there would be no improvement, no growth of positive attitudes and understanding to use in the future,” he says.

“The hardest parts of life are the most interesting.”

One important life lesson for Jabril has been the realisation that you can’t expect to be happy all the time.

“Improving oneself is very important,” he says. “When I overcome something, I remember the lesson, but I notice many people seem to forget.”

Jibril says he tries to learn from everyone.

“I listen to advice, but I don’t just blindly follow what someone says I should do—and I trust myself to overcome whatever I’m faced with.

“Life is so interesting,” he says. “I want to learn as much as possible.”