Fadul Al-Saber was born in Cobram and relocated to Shepparton with his mum, dad and three younger brothers in 2010. “As the oldest brother, I’ve always felt responsible to be a good role model to my younger brothers and show them that if I can do it, then they can do it too,” he says. Fadul’s mum works as an Arabic teacher at the Victorian School of Languages and, due to a medical condition, his dad entered early retirement after spending many years working on orchards across the region. Fadul says his parents have influenced him to aim for a career that will give him the skills needed to give back to his community. “They’ve always told me that no matter what I choose to do in the future, make sure it somehow benefits where you grew up…it’s so much deeper than just getting a job and making sure you benefit from it, you’ve got to look after the people around you too,” he says. “I’ve lived in rural areas my whole life and improving the lives of people who live in these places is important to me.”
Fadul commenced at Goulburn Valley Grammar School in 2019 after completing his first four years of secondary school at MacGuire College. “Before I made the decision to move schools I had heard a lot of great things about Grammar,” he says. “I knew there was something special about the school, not just academically, but from what I had heard there was a great culture and strong sense of community as well.” Fadul began his VCE studies at GVGS after being granted an academic scholarship. “When I knew that moving to Grammar was what I wanted to do, there was the opportunity for me to do academic testing to see if I was eligible for a scholarship…as part of the scholarship your tuition fees are reduced, but the most important thing for me was that it guaranteed me a spot at the school,” he says. “Ever since then, everything that I have experienced at Grammar has surpassed my expectations.” With strong community values himself, Fadul knew that GVGS’ principles and ideals aligned with what he wanted to achieve in life. “I’d heard that the school was very inclusive and that everyone supported and helped each other, which was reflected in the academic results of the students, but also the overall reputation the school has,” he says. “Lots of students chose to volunteer and get involved in local initiatives…these are all the reasons I wanted to come to Grammar, because leadership, being involved in the community and being around people with mindsets like that is really important to me.”
This year Fadul found himself in the middle of an unprecedented learning environment and initially struggled to adjust to this new normal. “At the start, it was difficult because it was so different to what we’re used to, but everyone adapted to it so well and the second lockdown felt better because we were more prepared,” he says. “The teachers were always chasing us – not only making sure we were getting our work done, but also checking up on our mental health as well.” Fadul has been required to complete practical work for some of his Year 12 subjects. This has added an extra layer of complexity to his studies as the typical facilities available to physics and chemistry students were inaccessible, requiring him to take advantage of the technology he had at home. “We became more resilient over time and found ways to make it work,” he says. “Because we didn’t have access to the equipment we normally have at school, we had to be resourceful and utilised YouTube tutorials a lot.” This year Fadul has chosen both subjects he is interested in and ones that are required for him to get into his chosen tertiary course in 2021. “Physics and biology are really interesting to me and I chose those subjects because I like learning about the topics,” he says. “Chemistry and maths are required for me to get into the uni course I want to do so they’re a bit more of a necessity.”
Fadul says that being a student at GVGS has helped nurture the commitment and dedication that is needed for him to achieve his goals, providing an intensely focused and supportive learning environment over the past two years. “Not only have the teachers helped me to be academically focused and study hard, but the careers advisors have been great too – they have so much experience, and they give you an opportunity to speak with past students and get some guidance that way,” he says. “I knew I wanted to do medicine, but I didn’t know where to start and I had no idea about the processes involved so having their guidance was really helpful to me.” In recent years, La Trobe University have partnered with the University of Melbourne to provide an innovative regional program across Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton called the Rural Medical Pathway. A first for the state, this collaborative medical program involves a 3-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) through one of La Trobe University’s rural campuses followed by a 4-year Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) at the University of Melbourne in Shepparton. Fadul has been given an early conditional offer for the Rural Medical Pathway, commencing in 2021. “This course is great for rural kids like me, because you don’t have to move away to another state or to Melbourne to study – you can study medicine close to home,” he says. “There are still a few hurdles I need to get over, but if all goes well I’ll be looking at starting the course at the beginning of next year…this is something that I don’t think would have been possible for me without being guided in the right direction by Grammar.”
Although Fadul’s time at the school has been short, it has had a significant impact on him. He is grateful for the opportunities he has had while a student at GVGS and hopes the Year 12s that come after him make the most of their time at the school. “At Grammar, you’re set up to do well so be confident, work hard, stay positive and anyone can achieve anything they want to,” he says.