His message to other former refugees? “It’s possible to become anything you want in New Zealand.”

Mr Mohammadi points out that there have been many people – including New Zealand Red Cross staff and Refugee Support Volunteers – who helped him along the way. He is grateful to all of them.

“My Refugee Support Volunteer Emma and her family really helped me. They bought me books for my courses and I feel so lucky that they are friends of mine.”

It was Emma who introduced Mr Mohammadi to her brother, Benjamin, who had studied engineering and encouraged him to give it a go.

“When I met Benjamin, he talked about his experiences at university and it really influenced me. I asked: ‘Do you think I could do engineering?’ and he said: ‘Of course you can do it! But you have to work hard. Just push your limits.’

“I remember one summer school there was a paper I thought I was going to fail and I almost lost hope. I spoke to Benjamin and he just said ‘Do your best! If you fail, do better next time.’

“That really gave me strength and I passed the paper. Benjamin – he helped me a lot.”

Emma and Benjamin at Mr Mohammadi's graduation

Emma, Benjamin and Mr Mohammadi’s other Refugee Support Volunteer, James, all attended Mr Mohammadi’s graduation in Christchurch. “I really said thank you to them that day. I said: ‘If you didn’t work on me, I would not be successful,’ and they laughed.

“I was so happy to graduate, honestly, so happy.”

Benjamin says Mr Mohammadi worked hard to achieve his goal, despite setbacks. He had to learn English from scratch and do foundation courses at both Victoria University and the University of Canterbury.

“He’s been so determined. He’s a really bright guy, and he’s got the staying power,” Benjamin says.

“He’s so open to personal development. It’s a really heart-warming feature of him – he listens to your advice, is constantly working to achieve. It seems like the Red Cross settlement programme really works.”

Mr Mohammadi is now looking for a job in the industry and to do a chartered engineering course. “I’m applying anywhere that there’s any possibilities,” he says.

He would eventually like to do a PhD on how the world can switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“Every day the human population is growing and on top of that, the logging industry, building new houses, meat eating, clearing native forest and agriculture are all decreasing the carbon sink. This is happening all over the world.

“I will do my best to utilise my education and my hard work to save the environment. The goal is to make the world a better place and save the planet – because we only have one.”

Mr Mohammadi has advice for anyone wanting to achieve a goal.

“Do you best for your goal. Apply all your resources. Be honest with yourself. Work hard and leave the rest to God.

“New Zealand is such a great country and I feel lucky to be here.”