KwebanaTutu Gyimah arrived in Australia from Ghana on a Monday, and by Tuesday he had walked to his nearest TAFE campus to enrol in a course.
It was 2006. He was profoundly deaf and communicated using American sign language - very different from Auslan - but he badly wanted a job.
With the help of an interpreter, he enrolled in a welding course, later securing an apprenticeship and welding work.
It continues to this day.
On Friday, Mr Gyimah, of Granville, appeared in Wollongong before a visiting Senate inquiry into TAFE, to make the case for retaining investment in deaf and disabled students.
He credits his success with the assistance he received through TAFE from interpreters and - because deaf students cannot look at their notebook and signing at the same time - note-takers.
He told the inquiry he considered the aides essential.
"Deaf people ... want to improve their life. We're the same as hearing people and we want to be treated fairly," he said.
Mr Gyimah told the Mercury the government's investment in aides for deaf students - estimated at more than $24,000 for certificate-level courses - was worthwhile, because it allowed them to achieve financial independence.
"I know people should be surprised at the cost, but it's a small price to pay for success," he said.