Perseverance Pays off : Zarah Denese Graduates with Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours

Story  by Zarah Denese

 Yesterday, I proved everyone wrong. I graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours.

As the saying goes, “Wag kang mag asawa nang maaga, dahil hindi mo matutupad ang mga pangarap mo.” (Do not get married early because you will not be able to achieve your dreams). This stigma instigates that marriage inevitably leads to motherhood and motherhood is perceived as a hindrance to achieving women's dreams.

Zarah Denese Graduates with Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours
Zarah Denese Graduates with Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours

8 years ago, I migrated to Australia from the small town of Taal in the Philippines. I got married, had my daughter and was living a simple life with a stable job. I have always wondered, what life could have been if I pursued my law degree. But the thought of working full time while studying law and raising a baby seemed impossible. In 2017, I decided to bite the bullet and enrol in law.

It was not easy. I started my first year translating assignments and case studies in Tagalog. I needed to understand how common law jurisdictions like Australia operate, and how a parliamentary and federal system of government works. After all, I was raised in a civil law jurisdiction from a republican country. Nevertheless, I persevered and found my feet. I built a habit of waking up at 3am everyday to study before my daughter wakes up and before I go to work. I started enjoying my studies. I topped my Criminal Law class, received a New Colombo Plan Scholarship and 8 other awards and scholarships.

I thought working and studying law with a young child was hard until I got pregnant with my second. Being heavily pregnant on my final year alongside caring for a toddler and working in a pandemic was a different kind of torture. It was physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Sometimes I felt like throwing in the towel. But if I did, one day I am going to have to explain to my children why. I cannot let them think that the old saying was right. Motherhood is not an obstacle to achieving women's dreams. Rather, motherhood is an inspiration to do better and be better. Four days after giving birth to my youngest daughter, I sat my final law exams - Evidence and Administrative Law. Call it fate, sheer luck, perseverance or even hormones that made it possible.

As an immigrant, I was surprised to be the only one to graduate with First Class Honours (a.k.a Summa Cum Laude) in my cohort. I am also the only one from my college to graduate with honours. Who would have thought that an immigrant from a developing country like me can be extraordinary. We, Filipinos, can also be extraordinary.

To everyone behind this success, my husband, my parents, my family, my friends, my professors at CDU and my mentors, thank you for believing in me.

And to everyone reading my little story, remember that life is all about choices. If you really want something, visualise it so hard and work for it so hard that it has no other choice but to materialise. It will never be too late to chase your dreams. Work hard, keep your feet grounded, and always be grateful.

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