Derby asylum seeker who fled Iran wins Cambridge University job
Just over two years ago, a Derby teenager was in fear of running away from his home country, Iran, with his sister and mother.
But in just under two weeks, the talented Amir Kadkhodaei will enroll at Cambridge University after a few years of flight, hiding and emotional turmoil.
Amir can’t believe how much his life has changed since he was a 16-year-old schoolboy in Tehran, where his family found themselves in grave danger after his mother and sister secretly converted to Christianity.
He said, “This is something you have to keep a secret, and there is no point in advertising your faith. and my sister and mother would be helped to stay in a secret place for a few months.
“We moved in fear that the discovery could mean imprisonment and worse for our loved ones as well as for ourselves.”
Eventually, the trio fled overland in a special vehicle designed to help people fleeing to Turkey. Using their own passports was impossible, so they got their hands on some forgeries.
Amir said: “We were there about two months and it was not good. We were in a room and relying on people to bring us food.”
After that, the family was transferred to Germany, where they were placed in a hotel but encountered many language problems during their stay there.
They eventually applied for asylum when they traveled to the UK, where they were first accommodated in a hotel in London before being transferred to a hostel in Birmingham for around three weeks.
After that, the three of them moved to Derby, where Amir struggled to adjust as he could not go to school as his previous education did not fit easily into the timetables and system of UK school exams.
He was studying for an Iranian degree and attending school from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. before running away and was missing his studies.
A previous chance encounter with a former student of Repton School – lawyer Sir Sir Alexander Elphinston – at a Birmingham church gave him a lifeline as it led to a conversation with the school.
Amir said: “I visited Repton School for a day and soon after I was offered a fully funded boarding school so that I could complete my studies by joining sixth form in September 2019.
“I had studied English from the age of 12 which helped me and I was able to study for A levels in math, extra math, physics, Persian and AS level computer science.”
Although he had to work hard to understand the technical details of his subject in English, Amir earned four A * s and an A and will now study computer science at St John’s College, Cambridge.
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Amir said: “I loved my time here in Repton, although much of it fell during the pandemic. Guardians were a huge help and my mom was a huge help as well.
“” Two and a half years ago, if someone had told me I would get a place at Cambridge, I wouldn’t have believed it. The support I received from my teachers, tutors, tutor house, matron and friends played an important role at this time and I am extremely grateful to Alex and the Repton School for seeing the potential in me.
“I could never have imagined how my life turned out. God has a plan. We felt very welcome in the UK and I am very grateful for that.
“Iran is a truly beautiful country. It has so much more to offer than what the news reports would have you believe – a rich cultural heritage, incredible landscapes, delicious food. I hope to come back when it is. a safer and more stable place. “
Repton school principal Mark Semmence said Amir’s attitude and approach sets him apart as a role model for the school community and society at large.
He said: “Amir has shown an exceptional character. Few of us can understand the challenges he has faced – leaving behind his home, his friends, his mother tongue and everything familiar to him. such an important moment in his education.
“He has faced many complex challenges with a sensitivity that has allowed him to stay focused on his academic ambitions and he deserves our full respect.”
Amir hopes he can eventually study for a Masters and PhD and added: “I am absolutely determined to make a positive contribution, wherever I can, to this country that I now call home.”
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