Ten years ago Hameeda Hussani (then 13) arrived in Peterborough from Afghanistan unable to speak English and having never been to school.
But today the 23-year-old former Stanground Academy pupil will receive a First Class Law Degree at a graduation ceremony at Anglia Ruskin University.
Hameeda, who used to earn money for her family by weaving carpets with her sister, said: “Making carpets was very hard – working from morning to night every day. Eventually my family started making and selling our own Persian carpets, which at least meant we could work from home.
“I came to the UK from Afghanistan when I was 13. As well as beginning to learn English, the local Afghan community arranged Persian lessons for me so that I could also read and write in my own language.
“Ever since I was a child I’d wanted to study law, but coming to the UK unable to speak, read or write English, I didn’t believe it was possible for me. But when you’ve dreamed of doing something for so long, even if it seems impossible, the thought revisits you again and again.
“Coincidentally a friend of mine also hoped to study law and encouraged me to find a course that would suit not only my background but also my ambitions. After visiting a law school open day at Anglia Ruskin University it was obvious that this was the place where I could follow my dream.
“When I first started on the course I was only expecting to get minimum grades, to scrape by. And that would have been fine. My dream was to study law and just being there was an achievement.
“Thanks to my determination and the support and encouragement I got from my tutors and peers, my dream soon became to practice law, not just study it. My will to succeed and show people that I could achieve whatever I wanted took over.”
During her final year at Anglia Ruskin, Hameeda won stages of a national law competition and eventually finished the course with a First.
She filled her summer with mini pupillages with barristers – Hameeda was also assisted by the Pegasus Access and Support Scheme from the Inner Temple – and is now studying for both a Legal Practice Course and a Masters at City University in London.
Her next target is to secure a training contract with a firm of solicitors next summer with the view to specialising in property or corporate law.
She added: “Not only have I learnt so much about law, but also about myself and why it’s so important to challenge yourself and believe in your potential.
“No matter what situation you are in or what your background is, you have to follow your own path. Anybody can go as far as they want to go with the right determination and support.”