Donny Imberlong’s journey to University Hall is literally 2,500 kilometres but his biggest challenge getting to UWA was not the distance but belief that he could pursue the impossible…
Originating from Drysdale River in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia Donny was brought up by his grandfather in a cultural environment unlike any other. Education opportunities were limited as there are no roads from the school headquarters in Derby to Donny’s hometown.
“We talked to our teachers over the radio. We’d sign in for 45 minutes in the mornings and have a chat to our teachers and other school mates,” says Donny.
From years four to seven his grandfather was also his teacher. Over the radio they went through the day’s lesson plans and then completed these at home together.
Donny first imagined himself working as a heavy diesel mechanic but in light of his unique upbringing he grew a passion for environmental conservation.
After being offered a scholarship at one of Perth’s elite boy’s schools, Donny made the move to study (and board) in the city (2008). The transition to a city high school and such a structured lifestyle was challenging – Donny missed home and found it hard to adjust.
When missing home Donny would reminisce on his favourite stories shared with his grandfather.
“There are three big islands where we live, sometimes me and my grandfather would go out there and camp for a few nights with some fishing lines and a bit of food.
“We had no blankets, just built a fire between us to create a shell and the breeze coming off the beach would blow the heat over us,” says Donny.
Overcoming the challenges in high school made it easier transition into living at University Hall and studying at UWA. “There are lots of nationalities and it’s really interesting to get to know everyone,” says Donny.
Donny chose University Hall as some of his Hale School friends moved to the Hall – he also made new friends on his UWA orientation tour. Donny tells students moving into college for the first time not to be shy!
“Try to make friends and have a chat with people from overseas,” he says.
When he first came to the Hall Donny was offered one of the highly sought after studio rooms in J House. One semester later, Donny requested to move into a standard premium room which offers a more communal, collegiate lifestyle.
He says he found J House to be a bit of a hotel, so he wanted to move and really enjoys living in E House where he shares the bathroom and kitchen with other people and has a bigger room.
The community environment at UniHall is the reason why Donny enjoys living at college. Donny gets involved in intercollege touch rugby competitions, samples the food at UniHall Global Café nights and stepped out of his comfort zone to participate in the university’s Challenges Abroad Machu Picchu Challenge.
As part of the program Donny travelled to Peru with a group of UWA students to provide Peruvian children with a safe and happy environment to learn English and develop key skills for social mobility in the future. He says the trip was pretty ‘hectic’ with the group learning Spanish, doing handy man jobs around the orphanage and learning how to keep the attention span of young children.
“They gave us from 9am – 12pm and we taught our own lesson plans. It was an amazing trip!”
Donny made it back to UniHall in time to begin the first semester, 2015. Studying a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Anthropology and Sociology and Environmental Science, he hopes to get a job where he can return home to Drysdale River.
“I want to do something in conservation. There are always threats where we live like feral cats, wild cattle and cane toads. There’s a lot to be done and conservation is something I’m passionate about and aiming for,” says Donny.
Donny’s favourite memory of the Hall so far was in his first few weeks – he remembers the new people he met, all the activities buzzing around the college and the lifelong friends he’s making from all around the world. Most recently Donny travelled to South America where he stayed in Brazil with friends he made at UniHall.
“I went to Port Alegre and stayed there for about a week and a half. My mate showed me around and took me to Osorio which is a little village type place, it was really nice.”
As a small boy living in the remote Kimberley it would have been hard for Donny to ever imagine that he would one day be living at UniHall and studying at UWA – but he is!