Thirteen years after arriving in the UK as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan unable to speak a word of English, Jameel Shah has been awarded a first-class honours degree by UEL and a prestigious travel scholarship to Canada to further his professional experience.
Jameel, 25, fled the civil war in Afghanistan at the age of 12 and began a new life in Neasden, west London, with his parents and five siblings.
Unable to speak English and with an interrupted education record in Afghanistan, he found himself placed in the bottom sets for all of his subjects at his local school, Capital City Academy.
But after two years of intensive English language study, he showed his true potential by gaining six As and 8 A*s in his GCSEs. His success continued into A Levels when he earned three Bs and one C.
“I got such good grades that I didn’t know what to focus on,” said Jameel. “None of my family had gone to university, so I had no guidance.”
He chose to study Biomedical Science at Brunel University but was unhappy with the course and dropped out after a year.
“I had always been really involved in sports,” he said. “I wished that I had done something to do with that.”
It was while working in a gym that he discovered the Sports Therapy course at UEL, and promptly enrolled.
The course puts an emphasis on practical, hands-on experience. During his first year he secured a work placement at Derby County Football Club and during his final year he worked with West Ham United.
And now, after being awarded a first-class degree, he has won the prestigious Society of Sports Therapists’ Student Travelling Scholarship to Canada.
He will stay at the Green Shield Sports Therapy Clinic on the University of Windsor campus, where he will help out with pre-season training for many of the university sports teams and gain first-hand experience of collegiate sport, Canadian style.
He is the first student from UEL to win the placement. The application process was highly competitive with students from 22 UK universities applying.
Jameel was encouraged to apply by his course leader, Michael Cole.
Jameel said: “There’s so much that it can offer. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain some professional experience in a completely different environment.”
Canadian athletic therapist Kathy Harvie, who has guided the previous seven winners of the award, flew to the UK to interview the applicants.
She said, “Jameel prepared well and interviewed with great poise. His year out working with a professional football team plus the experience he has gained coaching abroad will stand him in good stead to hit the ground running.”
Professor Graham N. Smith, Chairman of The Society of Sports Therapists and another member of the interview panel, said: “In selecting Jameel, I know that we have got not only an outstanding ambassador for The Society of Sports Therapists but also a graduate who has had an amazing personal and academic journey.”