Our Students

Yousif Shaaya

Yousif Shaaya arrived in Australia in 2011 on a refugee visa from Iraq. After completing Melbourne Polytechnic’s Young Adult Migrant Education (ESL) program (YAMEC, Level 1) he decided to develop his skills in the kitchen by enrolling in dual courses, Certificate III in ESL (Employment) and Certificate II in Hospitality (Kitchen Operations).

“After visiting the Grand Hyatt on a field trip, I decided it was my dream to work there. I even told the manager! Soon I had an interview for a trial week of work in the kitchen.”

Yousif Shaaya was born in Iraq and spent four years working in his uncle’s restaurant in Syria en route to Australia as a refugee. Since studying multiple courses, Yousif has discovered a promising career pathway in cooking.

Yousif arrived in Australia in 2011 and enrolled in the Young Adult Migrant Education (ESL) program (YAMEC, Level 1) as a first step in establishing a future in his new country.

“The YAMEC course helped me to decide to study ESL and hospitality. My teacher asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I had skills in the kitchen and then he suggested I apply to study hospitality.”

In his uncle’s three-star restaurant, Yousif gained valuable skills and experience in cooking French and Italian style food. He found that he was able to build on these at NMIT, Melbourne Polytechnic's forerunner.

“When I came to NMIT, I learned better. Of course, I learnt a lot of things in my uncle’s restaurant, very important things. But here, I learned new things.”

Yousif found studying in the ESL courses to be very rewarding, especially when learning about kitchen skills and the hospitality sector at the same time.

“When I came my language skills were terrible,” says Yousif with a laugh. “Now they are much better.”

Having the opportunity to work in Melbourne Polytechnic's ‘St Georges Restaurant’ also gave Yousif the chance to develop friendships with his classmates as well as develop his English skills.

“When I work in the kitchen it’s like being part of a team, working with my friends who all speak English. This helps me to improve my language skills. Teamwork is really important.”

“I have made many friends at NMIT. My best friends from my hospitality class are from Greece, Italy and Japan. They have helped me so much!”

Yousif found that working in the kitchen at Melbourne Polytechnic and training with Mathew Hanson was a highlight of his studies. Here he learned western-style cooking skills, which proved to be invaluable when Yousif was offered work at Flemington Racecourse during the Melbourne Cup Carnival where he received an outstanding report from Head Chef, John Hand.

During the course, the class was also taken on many excursions around Melbourne.

“We went on lots of field trips as a class. We went to Victoria market, Crown casino, Grand Hyatt and many other restaurants. This was a chance to learn many new things.”

When Yousif visited the Grand Hyatt he told the manager that it was his dream to work there. He attended an interview and has been offered a week’s trial period in their kitchens.

“I am so happy with how things are going. Everything has been step by step, not slowly, very fast! I hope to enrol in Certificate III in Hospitality (Commercial Cookery) alongside an apprenticeship next year.”


Certificate II in Hospitality (Kitchen Operations), and Certificate III in ESL Employment (Hospitality)