As an international student, it can be tough working and studying at the same time. But with determination, it can be done, as Fahmida Yasmin demonstrates.

Fahmida Yasmin understands the definition of hard work.

When she was doing her placement as part of her Bachelor of Community Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs, she would wake up at the crack of dawn to jump on a train from Melbourne to Morwell.

After a full day’s work, she’d make the long trek home, sometimes only getting in at 7pm. At the same time, she was studying hard to complete her course.

On weekends, Fahmida would work double shifts at Cabrini as a food ambassador from 7am to 8.30pm. Sometimes she would complete her assignments on the train to or from work.

It was the same story during almost every holiday.

But that’s what it took for her to make ends meet as an international student and achieve her dream of getting qualified with a bachelor’s degree.

“It was seven days full-on, but I was handling it well,” says Fahmida.

After finishing high school in Bangladesh, Fahmida followed her older brother’s footsteps and decided to study in Australia.

Chisholm’s Bachelor of Community Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs appealed to her, as she wanted to learn about real-life hardships affecting people, from domestic violence to mental health struggles.

She also liked the smaller class sizes offered by Chisholm, rather than being in a university setting.

At first, Fahmida had to adjust to the new style of learning.

“Back home we did assignments a bit differently, so at first I struggled a bit with that,” she says. “Then I started seeking help from teachers and friends and things got easier. Back home, if you ask too many questions, the teacher might not like it, but in Australia I learned the more questions you ask, the happier the teachers are, because they want you to learn.”

Fahmida ended up doing really well at Chisholm. In her second year, she received a $1500 scholarship.

In 2021, she was nominated as Higher Education Student of the Year and International Student of the Year at the Chisholm Education Awards.

In 2022, she was again nominated for both awards and ended up winning Higher Education Student of the Year.

Fahmida really enjoyed her placement at headspace, a not-for-profit organisation for youth mental health, and was able to use the skills she had acquired at Chisholm on the job.

After three years of study when Fahmida finally graduated, she felt over the moon she’d achieved her goal.

“On my graduation day, I was with my brother and the course co-ordinator came to me and my brother and said how proud they were of me,” says Fahmida. “Even though you hear it from teachers back home, hearing it from teachers in a foreign country feels different. I felt so proud that they had acknowledged all the struggles. I’m not a really good student because English is my second language and whatever I learn is hard to process in my memory, but I try so hard to learn and understand.”

Fahmida plans to do a Master of Nursing Practice at Monash and become a clinical psych nurse in a mental health ward.