Less than two years ago, higher education wasn't a possibility for Iranian refugee Masih Ghasemi.
But on Wednesday, Masih - who fled to Australia with his family in March 2016 - stood beaming alongside more than 100 high-achievers, having topped the state in his HSC course.
Masih went to Epping Boys High School, but placed first in HSC Persian - a subject he studied every weekend at the language school at Arthur Phillip High.
The 18-year-old woke up on Thursday morning to learn he had excelled in his HSC subjects, achieving a Band 6 result in every course except for English as a Second Language.
"I'm not completely satisfied, especially with English, but it was fine overall and I am pretty sure I shouldn't have a problem getting into the university course I want," Masih said.
For the first time, his dream of studying medical science is a possibility.
As members of the Baha'i faith, he says he and his brother had no hope of going to university or working in Iran, where they also endured religious persecution and physical abuse on a daily basis.
"In Iran the members of this faith are under extreme religious discrimination and prejudice coming from the government???[which is] basically a theocracy," Masih said.
"We are denied a lot of the basic human rights that we are supposed to have and that includes education, tertiary education, having jobs??? If I had stayed, I wouldn't have been able to go to university, wouldn't be able to apply for jobs, and would have had a hard time actually living.
Masih, his brother, and his mother were visiting relatives in Australia last year, who begged the family to stay and seek refugee status.
In Iran, he excelled at school and was selected to compete in the Iranian Biology Olympiad - an elite science competition for gifted students, which saw him spending his free time pouring over advanced medical textbooks.
The young man said the fear he would be denied entry to University and forced to serve in the military in Syria "was really concerning for me and my family and??? the biggest factor that drove us here".
"I am really grateful to Australia - the Australian government and the Australian society - for accepting us," he said.
"We are really happy and proud that we can have the basic human rights that are cherished everywhere. We can be free agents who [sic] shape our own future and to serve the society to the best of our abilities as productive members of the community and as Baha'i's to reach the ultimate goal of creating a better world."