Meeting Her Majesty the Queen

I have been through lots of ups and downs over the last year. At the beginning of the year, I had to deal with the trafficking of my young sister. She is now safe in Khartoum.

In September 2016, I started a master’s degree in Migration and Diaspora Studies. I was honoured to be awarded a SOAS University of London refugee scholarship that covered all my tuition fees and accommodation. I live in a beautiful suite in London House, Goodenough College. I have already made lots of friends and am doing very well in my studies.

Having said that, I struggled a bit at the beginning of the academic year. When I decided to go to London to start my MA course, I did not have enough money to live on. The scholarship covered my tuition fees and accommodation, but not my basic needs such as food, clothes and so on. I worked for about ten months before I started the MA course, but did not have money as I paid all the money to release my sister from the smugglers.

Frankly, I had £50 in my bank account when I travelled to London and did not have any source of income at the time. But I did not want to miss the opportunity of pursuing my dreams and that is why I had to start the MA course.

On my first day at SOAS, I saw students queuing by the gate and wondered what it was for. After coming close to the queuing area, I noticed they were queuing for food. I then asked one of the students who told me that it was a charity distributing food for students for free. The student asked me if I wanted to line up with her and I joined her. While introducing each other, we found out that we will be in the same department. After that, we became friends and are still good friends.

For about six weeks, I would queue for free food once a day. Basically, I was eating only once a day. Sometimes, I would retain a piece of bread from lunch and eat it later in the evening. But, it was not as bad as it sounds. I have been through a lot of difficult times and this was nothing compared to some of the things I had to endure.

Frankly, I had £50 in my bank account when I travelled to London and did not have any source of income at the time. But I did not want to miss the opportunity of pursuing my dreams and that is why I had to start the MA course.

After six weeks, I got a freelance interpretation and translation job in London. I was so relieved to have got a job that I can work whenever I want to. For the remaining months of the year, I would work two days and use the rest of my time for studying. Doing so, I earned enough money for my basic needs. I even went back to the charity that distributed free food and donated £150. The chefs already knew me from queuing every day for their food and they were surprised. I told them that I had found a job and that I felt it was my duty to help others in a difficult situation like I was. They were very grateful for my generosity. The job opportunity transformed me from their service user to their friend.

If there was one special moment that happened to me last year, it was meeting her Majesty the Queen. The Queen visited Goodenough College as part of her regular visit, and I became one of the people selected to meet her in December 2016. It was a very special occasion.

I spent Christmas with my cousin and his family in Switzerland. It was a glorious opportunity to have met my cousin after years of separation.

I also talked to my fiancée who has been stuck in Khartoum since Christmas 2014. I managed to appeal against the Home Office’s decision to refuse her family reunion application. I am now waiting for the appeal hearing from immigration and asylum tribunal. I have been reading a lot about immigration rules so that I understand how to represent my fiancée in the appeals. I cannot afford to have a solicitor, so I need to be a solicitor for myself and my fiancée. Fingers crossed that everything goes well!

I came back to London a few days before New Year. I have essays to submit in the first week of January, so I have to concentrate on a draft essay I am working on right now.

Happy New Year!

About the author

Hyab Yohannes

I work as a research associate and academic coordinator for CUSP N+, and I hold a PhD in The Realities of Eritrean Refugees in a Carceral Age from the University of Glasgow. My research focuses on decoloniality, and I am an Eritrean-UK citizen.


© 2024. Hyab T. Yohannes.