My name is Salma Majeed. I came from Afghanistan along with my family and arrived in the UK in June 2014. We claimed asylum and we waited for our case decision for about 5 years. Luckily, I got my refugee statues last year in 2019 but my family is still waiting for a decision. Relocating from Afghanistan has been a huge challenge for me. My immigration status has forced me to change schools and accommodations over the past 5 years. This disruption has also had a significant impact on my health and social life. For example, since living in the UK, I have attended 3 different schools and colleges, and have lived in 5 different houses in various parts of London. Coming to a new country with different language and culture was really hard for us to adjust. Learning a new language and to integrate into a new environment was the biggest barrier for us. At the beginning it was really difficult for me to make myself involve with other people in London. I was very afraid how people will react with me, what if they laugh on my English. First 3 years of my life in London was like a night-mare everywhere I faced a lot of struggles such as financial difficulties, no social life and many more problems with finding free case advisor (Legal-Aid) to help us in our asylum case.
Despite this, I have overcome these obstacles and have achieved very high grades in my Level 3 Diploma and I am currently studying Biomedical science in Brunel University. This shows that I always strive to work hard and do my best despite my circumstances. Education has been a great source of hope for me during these years, and studying at university will enable me to achieve my future goals. As an asylum seeker it was not possible for me to attend university as I was not eligible for student finance and I did not had work permit. At the beginning people was laughing on me that I can’t study university here with being an asylum seeker it’s not possible. All these matters were a burden on my shoulders, I went into depression. I was being treated with cognitive behaviour therapy CBT, as my mental health and physical health was affected a lot.
Consequently, I found and approached Refugee Support Network (RSN). My journey from college till University RSN had a significant role in my success, because without their help I would have not been able to reach my goals. During my college time, I was provided with a mentor to help me with my studies by RSN. That helped me a lot at the beginning because it was like a boost up for me, learning new things and getting help at the same time while I needed it the most during my exams. Dan McEvoy was my educational support worker with whom I had 1:1 session to help me in applying to universities and sanctuary scholarships. By giving one to one support really relieved me to see whether I was going on a right direction to move forward or not. RSN supported me by checking my statements to make sure if I am doing everything right. Due to the circumstance, I was not able to go to university after my college so I went for an extra 1 year course to do because I didn’t wanted to waste my time all at home. Thus, I decided to do access course in that RSN helped me more by applying to educational grants for the course fee. Because of my asylum statues, I was not home student so I had to pay for my course fee. Then I applied for 3 different charities to help with my course fee and I was successful and awarded their grants.
Moreover, during my hard time RNS helped me financially such as paying for my travel for a month when I had nothing in my pocket and by providing me with a laptop which made it easy for me to complete my educational tasks and assignments in my own space and time. Now, I am more confident than ever this is all because of the RSN team support and the most credit goes to Dan who supported me throughout my all further educations and particularly with my scholarship applications which I think I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. Dan, never made me feel low and he was always there for me whenever I needed help with my applications. At the end of July I was about to give up my hope on getting into university but Dan motivated me a lot and showed me that I can do this to achieve my objectives.
Furthermore, Dan helped me with my UCAS application and University sanctuary scholarships. I applied for 5 scholarships and I was rejected from all 5 that was the moment when I give up on everything I lost all my hopes. Then with the help of Dan and RSN team I was supported emotionally and mentally to not give up and keep on working hard. I still remember the time when I was beginning Brunel university scholarship team to give me one more chance. They needed some changes from me to do it in my UCAS application with the help of Dan I did that he helped me whenever I couldn’t do anything such as by calling university’s or emailing to education grants on my behalf to help me get it. At the end I got lucky when I had only 20 days’ time during august when I heard back from Brunel university London that I was awarded a scholarship that was my happiest day I cannot express my feelings how excited and happy I was I felt very close to my dreams on that day.
This was still not done, as I struggled for my travel cost and living expenses because my university is 2 hours and 20min away from me so I needed monthly package on my oyster card to travel. Again I went through and I am still going through these struggles to apply every year to different charities hoping to get educational grants to help me continue my education. It’s really easy to write everything down but the feelings and the sufferings one go though can only really feel how hard it is. Recently, I have got a university scholarship which covers my university fee and I have attended the summer internship from which I am saving to help myself in coming year of my university. Along this I have applied to few charities for educational grants and again I am hoping to be successful to keep on moving one step more closer to my dreams.
In conclusion, I would like to say a big thank you to the RSN team for running higher education and mentoring programmes which help and support students like me with lots of barriers. RSN not only helped me with my Education they also helped me mentally by giving me all sought of support which were like a therapy for me. Every individual in RSN do a great work which is like a bright side of a person life from a very dark side. I am also grateful to all sanctuary scholarship providers who help with asylum seekers and refugees is appreciated and it is really amazing work they do. It gives a new life to a lost young person. I hope many other charities will do the same and facilitate those who are in special need. To approach and to be in contact with RSN was the best decision that I have ever made.