Meet Sobur Dhieu, Tony and Maja Carp scholarship recipient

A year ago, Sobur Dhieu applied for the Tony and Maja Carp scholarship to support her studying the Bachelor of Arts. Now at the end of her first year, Sobur tells us about what her experience at the University of Melbourne been like.

It’s mid-semester break, and despite semester 2 exams looming, Sobur seems calm and relaxed – especially in her grey University of Melbourne hoodie.

Her parents are originally from South Sudan, but Sobur was born in Kenya and moved to Australia in 2004. The second-eldest of nine children, she comes from a large family. Her youngest sibling turned one this year, and her eldest 21.

“A lot of children equals a lot of responsibility, but my family has always been big on education. They believe that education is a leveller, so no matter if you come from a migrant background, one thing that you can always strive for is to get a good education,” she says.

Inspired by her father, who studied while working in a factory job and earned a double masters degree in 2014, Sobur attributes her academic drive to her parents’ influence.

While she’s currently focusing on English, creative writing and politics, her plan is to study law at the Melbourne Law School once she completes her BA. From there, she hopes to forge a career in human rights law, with a focus on migration law and protecting the rights of refugees.

In the meantime, receiving the Tony and Maja Carp scholarship has been invaluable. The scholarship supports refugees or people from refugee backgrounds from Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia who are enrolling in the Bachelor of Arts, and offers full fee remission as well as up to $30,000 over the three years of the degree.

“It’s made a world of difference,” says Sobur. “It’s like a safety net where I don’t have to rely on my parents. It’s teaching me a lot about personal responsibility and how to manage my own finances. It’s really helped paying for my books, my Myki, and food – just small things that would have cost a lot for my family.”

The transition from school to university was not without its challenges, but it also came with some pleasant surprises.

Having attended a small school of only 700 students, the sheer number of people on the University’s Parkville campus was initially overwhelming.

“My cohort in Year 12 was only 36, and then I came here and there were 1000 people in my politics class,” she explains. “So it’s a big step, because of the social aspect. But I found that within my classes, having people with similar interests to me – that’s something I’ve never had before. That’s something I’m passionate about.”

Although she has now found kindred spirits in her classes, before she started at the University of Melbourne, Sobur was worried she wouldn’t fit in.

“I’d heard these stereotypes about rich, stuck-up kids and I thought I would always feel like an outsider. But that’s been the opposite of my experience. I’m really blown away by how friendly everyone is – I have met some amazing people who inspire me and despite its size, Melbourne Uni feels like a community.”

In her first semester, Sobur was reading through a weekly newsletter of on-campus events and noticed a call-out for students who had a story to tell relating to racism. It was an advertisement from one of the University of Melbourne’s Student Union social groups, People of Colour Department – a group Sobur is now involved in.

“I applied for it, and I told them that I wanted to do a workshop on the ‘African Gang Crisis’, on debunking some of the myths and providing some context about it,” she says. “It was a really interesting experience and I didn’t know that people would be so engaged. The workshop really inspired a lot of people and I was inspired and encouraged by everyone’s contributions.”

Has this experience her motivated her to do more of this kind of work in the future?

“I’d love to do that. I was scared to do it because it was in my first semester, first year, and I just thought, ‘Do I have the confidence?’ – because I don’t like speaking in public. But through this experience, I felt like I had a voice and I had a platform.”

Applications for the Tony and Maja Scholarship close on 11 October 2019.

Find out more about eligibility and how to apply