Aarash, a young asylum seeker, has just come to the end of his first year at university. To get there, he overcame huge practical and emotional challenges.
"For me, education is freedom. It opens doors and clears your way. It’s like walking from darkness into light. When you are educated you get knowledge, wisdom, understanding and a future."
In many ways, Aarash's highs and lows have been just like those experienced by all new students: the joy of learning more about a subject he loves, the fun of meeting new people and finding a sense of belonging in his university community, the challenges of a whole new level of academic work. But, in others ways, Aarash’s experience has been completely different. He is an asylum seeker who has fled conflict in his home country and arrived in the UK on his own as a teenager.
Like many young adults seeking safety in the UK, he’s faced the trauma of fleeing war, the loss of family and a familiar environment, and a very broken experience of education. He’s had to learn English, navigate life in the care system and deal with a complex asylum process which has not only left him “hurting mentally” but made him ineligible for student finance.
Since arriving in the UK, Aarash has studied hard and demonstrated a humbling resilience and commitment to education. We were overjoyed when he secured the scholarship which finally made university possible and when he let us know that he’d passed his first year exams.
"Sometimes I’m scared and ashamed to tell people that I’m an asylum seeker because they don’t really understand what that means and might think I’m a ‘criminal’. I think universities could find more ways for students to understand the reality of situations like mine. The past year hasn’t always been easy, but my teachers and the scholarship team were so good. They were on my side and they stood with me through difficult times."