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Student Stories: Fifi

Posted September 2, 2021

A portrait of Prace graduate Fifi Ahlam.

Moving to Australia has been the opportunity for Fifi to start on an exciting journey – and we don’t just mean geographically, although she has certainly covered plenty of kilometres!

Fifi has an extensive background in financial law, having completed her Bachelor of Legal and Administrative Science and worked for banking and insurance companies in her Algerian homeland. However she has taken a very different path.

In 2011 Fifi and her husband, who works for a large multinational company, moved to Qatar. Fifi started teaching French in an international kindergarten.

“The children had French lessons twice a week. The emphasis was on them having fun. We used songs, crafts, videos and rhymes to create simple but engaging lessons,” she said.

“I taught them basic words such as French greetings, the days of the week, colours, numbers  and so on. At that age, it is easy for them to develop perfect accents in an additional language. I now witness the same thing with my children – I’m jealous of their excellent English accents!”

Fifi realised she loved teaching and decided that this was where her future lay.

In 2019 Fifi’s husband was transferred again – this time to Australia. By then the family had grown to four and when they arrived in Melbourne Fifi felt it was important to focus on getting the children settled in the new environment.

“Once they started school I planned to resume work, but I knew I needed to get an Australian-recognised qualification to increase my chances of getting a job. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do – Education.

“Australia has one of the best education systems in the world and I wanted to be part of it.”

When her children started school, Fifi began researching courses in Education Support.

“I liked the sound of the Prace course as it seemed very practical and when I met Ancy Kurban, the Education Support Coordinator, I was really impressed,” she said.

“Ancy really took the time to make sure that the course was right for me and that I had a good chance of being successful. During our first interview she spent a lot of time talking to me, explaining the mode of study and pathway and wanting to be sure that I would get value for money, as I was a full-fee paying student. I was really impressed by that – she was thoughtful and gave me really good advice. I felt that my needs were the top priority,” said Fifi.

She began her course in early 2020, just as Covid-19 was ramping up, which complicated things a bit. None the less, Fifi said she thoroughly enjoyed the course.

“Oh, yes, 100%. My teacher Edita Didic was fantastic. She was helpful and very approachable. We all got a lot of support from her and she was very adaptable in difficult times.

“Prace was totally transparent with us and kept us updated about the Covid-19 situation and changes in the study arrangements due to lockdown. They organised online catch-up sessions when we needed extra help with our assessments.

“It was challenging. Like many other students I was trying to juggle homeschooling my children with studying and so on, and Edita was really understanding and supportive during these times – she  made us believe in ourselves!

“If we struggled with the assessments, she said, ‘don’t worry, once you start your placement it will all make sense’, and she was right!”

Fifi said that Ancy helped her find a work placement at Wales Street Primary School, which wasn’t far from where she lived.

“I loved my placement. I would come across situations and think ‘I know how to handle this’ or ‘I remember reading about this’. It gave me a lot of confidence to realise how much I had learned.”

As Fifi got to the end of her course, Edita gave her some very good advice.

“She said start applying for jobs, but don’t just sit around waiting to see what the outcome is.”

Knowing that Fifi hadn’t had much experience with the local education system, apart from during her studies, Edita advised her to start volunteering in schools while waiting to find a position as this would highlight her good interpersonal skills when applying for a job.

Fifi approached the school principal at Wales Street Primary and organised to become a volunteer after her placement finished. At the end of the term, the principal asked her if she would be interested in continuing on, working three days a week.

“I said yes, thinking I would be continuing as a volunteer, but the principal said ‘Actually, I’m offering you a casual job’. I was so happy!” said Fifi.

“I am so glad I chose Prace. Edita was a wonderful teacher and Ancy was very involved too. They kept me well-informed through the whole process. They helped me so much when I was a student and now I consider them both friends.”

Are you inspired by Fifi’s story? Our next Education Support course starts in October 2021! Find our more about the Certificate III in Education Support here.