I had the pleasure of interviewing Ash (a young man aged 22 from Iran), who came to Action Foundation to further improve his English language and to access our Action Letting in Sunderland. Little did he know then that doors were about to open for him, not only literally but also metaphorically… to a promising and exciting future ahead. We started our conversation by looking to the future…Ash has been offered a place to study for a Masters’ in Film Directing at the very prestigious University of the Arts in London!
Since the age of 12 and whilst at school in Iran, Ash dreamt of a career in the film industry and has a great passion for the history of cinema and film noir. He has very supportive parents and early advice from both his mother and father have given him great strength and determination to follow his dream.
His mum, who studied Psychology and is very open minded, said “If you have a glass of water, don’t see the empty spaces, see the water inside”. His dad’s advice was: “You need to do what brings you joy and to follow your dreams so that when I am no longer here, you will continue to be happy.”
He didn’t expect to receive such a warm welcome when he arrived in the North East, but he found everyone very welcoming in Sunderland and particularly when he started volunteering at FODI (Friends of the Drop-in Sunderland).
Having a good understanding of the English language and volunteering opened many doors for Ash and has played a huge part in developing his many friendships. He met a radio producer and was introduced to Spark Radio, a full-time community radio station at Sunderland University run by volunteers and now regularly presents on their weekly live show which goes out on Tuesdays 11-12noon. To learn about broadcasting, he firstly ‘shadowed’ other presenters, produced a short clip and then went ‘live on air’!
He has formed long lasting friendships with volunteers and their families that he has met through FODI and later at Action Language and Action Letting where the owner of his accommodation has connected him with people in London and accommodation ready for the start of his Masters’.
“In forming friendships, it is very important to respect the culture you are living in and to be able to say sorry if you think you may have offended someone, which can be hard to know if you don’t understand the different culture” explained Ash.
Ash now has friends from many different countries and cultures, some of whom have now moved to different cities in the UK, but they will continue to keep in touch and meet up.
When Ash heard about Action Language he was keen to get involved in classes to further improve his already very good English. He found everyone so friendly and welcoming and was also introduced to Action Housing. This enabled Ash to move into our supported housing with help from Jen, one of our support workers, and for the past six months he has been happily sharing a flat with 3 others (very tidy people) in Sunderland, overlooking the river.
He is very grateful for the support given through Action Housing which means not having to worry about practical things to do with the accommodation and he knows that he can always ask Jen for advice on things or where to go for any extra support.
“At Action Language Sue helped me so much in practising for my IELTS exam and gave me preparation exercises. It was hard work, but I passed and achieved the points I needed for my university applications” said Ash. He applied to 5 universities with 4 all happy to consider his past qualifications and background in production. Entry to the University of the Arts in London is an arduous process with a 3-stage interview process. In the final stage, Ash was asked to direct a script scene from the film ‘In Bruges’ directing two professional actors and in front of the course leaders!
Ash said: “It was a golden time – I knew I needed to be the best version of myself”. He was offered one of only 7 places! “I called my family by internet in the middle of the night to tell them the news! My mum was crying, and it was the happiest moment of my life so far in the UK. My family have sacrificed a lot for me to follow my dreams.”
When Ash arrived in the UK it was not what he expected, but it has proved to be a very friendly and welcoming country and where he is very happy to be. On leaving Iran, it was the first time that he had lived alone, but his experiences have made him a stronger person. He will miss the North East when he moves down to London, particularly all the kind people he has met, but also the local accents, the history of the area, the football banter and Sunderland. We will miss Ash too and we wish him all the best as he follows his dreams and we look forward to hearing more about his exciting future ahead.