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THE UK: Destination Guides

Q&A with Festival of Learning Award Winner Habib Rezaie

The Festival of Learning's Outstanding Individual Learner Award winner talks about his journey to the UK and his message for the UK Higher Education sector.

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Habib Rezaie has come a long way since migrating to the UK 11 years ago. Just 16 years old, with no family to accompany him and no knowledge of how to speak the English language, it can't have been easy trying to adapt to living in the country.


Despite all of that, Habib has thrived.


After completing an ESOL course and a successful claim for asylum to the UK, Habib has gone on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Computing for Business at De Montfort University. He is now in the process of completing his Masters and hopes to open his own business in the future.


Habib's hard work was recognised as he won the 2017 Festival of Learning’s Outstanding Individual Learner Award at the award’s ceremony in London.



Not only is Habib a great example of what can happen if you throw yourself into the unknown, he is also a focused learner who is passionate about education being a universal right. Below he gives tips to students thinking about coming to the UK, explains what it is like to live in the country, and has a message for the UK higher education sector…


Tell us a bit more about your journey…


“I came to the UK in 2006 with zero qualifications, because obviously back in Afghanistan I did not have the opportunity to go to school. So, despite the problems that I had, I started going to college, and basically it all started from there, from my ESOL (English as a Second Language) course I made it all the way to university. So it was quite a journey, but I made it and I’m happy”


Do you have any advice for other students?


“My advice would be that, yes, life is hard, it is very difficult, especially if you are coming from a different country where everything is different. Once you move here, you realise that the system is different, there’s a different society, there are many different things. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you learn and you grow up and you develop around different cultures so that really is a great start. I’d say don’t give up, follow your dreams – I know it might seem hard but anything is achievable as long as you work hard. Forget about your problems and keep focused!”


Do you feel that university really helped you adapt to life in the UK?


“Yes, yes definitely! University is not just about learning. University is a place where you have people from all around the world and obviously you integrate into different societies, different cultures, you meet loads of people and you learn a lot from university – it really makes you set for life. It is a different environment, and a great atmosphere to be in!”


Where did you get your support network from?


“I made so many friends at university, at college, at work. That’s how I was able to come here as a complete stranger, I didn’t know what to do here or how anything worked, but as soon as I progressed here, I met friends and the people around me and the community helped me out. I am only where I am now because of them, there really were some great people in the community who helped me out. I’ve got lots of friends now, and I am happy”


Can you tell us a bit more about the charity that you are working for?


“The charity is called After 18, we help young people that have immigrated to England and have had difficulty integrating into society, accessing education, and we help with any other simple, everyday things that they may be struggling with. We try to help them and give them a kickstart with any of their problems.”


Do you have any messages for the government or universities in the UK on how they can support students to change their lives like you have?


“I would say to the universities and the government – ‘trust us’. We have hopes, we have dreams, trust us and we can do it! Trust us and try to help us out. People like me have been through a lot, we just want this kickstart in our life. And if a university can do that like my university did, it was a great opportunity and I wouldn’t have been able to get my education if my university didn’t help me out. So, yes, it makes a big impact if a university jumps in and helps out.”


What are your plans for the future?


“This is now my second home, I have got used to the society, the community, and I really can’t leave all the friends that I have made here – I love them all. I am in the process of doing my Masters and hopefully I can start my own IT business – that’s my future plan. But first I need to finish my Masters to give me more knowledge about how things work.”


If Habib’s story has inspired you to study in the UK, have a look at courses in the country now!

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