This guest post is written by Hamza Khaleel, who graduated with an LLB in 2016.
It was November 2011. I had been married for one year and my wife had an offer to study a Masters at the University of Malaya in Malaysia while I had discovered the University of London LLB programme that would give me the academic knowledge and edge to work in the social, justice and human rights fields of the Maldives. I was desperate to find the means to support the both of us to study abroad as there were no proper university degree programmes in the tiny island nation of the Maldives. We got our savings together and decided to take the risk of having merely enough funds for one year for the both of us. Our plan was for us to work while studying as much as we could.
I was initially told by my study institute, KDU University College, that since I had only one London GCE A Level pass that I did not qualify for the LLB Laws Honours course, so I joined an A Level class. After three months I contacted UOL directly and got accepted into the LLB programme. At this point it is important to note I was 28 years old and the oldest student in class trying very hard to be able to adapt to their modern lingo and topics of interest. Though I did make up for it all with years of work experience which I was always (sometimes too eagerly maybe) to share
with my younger classmates. I completed my first year and so did my wife with her masters.
We had a few scares in Malaysia; once being thrown out of an apartment we rented and losing the deposit. With all this said, I loved Malaysia and got through with all passes and much more determination. Just after my exams, my one and only brother passed away from a brain aneurysm. This took a heavy toll on me mentally as I moved on to the second year. One does not reach the target if one stops to criticise and object and fight and, at times make sense of, every single person and situation along the way. This was my attitude, I kept going and let the petty things go easily, focused on the broader goal of achieving my UOL LLB and going back home to the Maldives to be part of the solution for the very young democracy with weak systems and an even weaker legal system; and work for a positive change.
After the first year, for reasons I do not need to go into detail about, I was unable to receive my student pass (visa) in time for the second year, so had no choice but to move quickly to neighbouring Singapore to the study institute of Stansfield College. By this time, on a positive note, I had received a student loan from the Maldivian government, although it was for rates of living in Malaysia. So moving to Singapore meant the same costs doubled and others tripled, including the tuition fee, resulting in running out of two years of fees within that one year. By this time, we were both working (I was doing translations, reports and online articles for magazines and such) earning extra money to survive as we were living on my stipend alone. My wife had completed her classes for her masters and she went back home to do research leaving me alone in Singapore. She was also supplementing my finances as she worked for a consultancy firm while doing her research work.
The second year was tougher being by myself and got even more tough when my father passed away just before the exams. Once more I found myself at a low point; so to prevent myself from falling into a pit, I decided to stay positive and started eating right and exercising (regular badminton sessions and jogging). Friends played a vital role as well to keep my spirits up. I passed through the second year once more (though I had to resit Trust).
By the time my third year started, I was getting over the passing of my brother and father and strengthening my bond with my mother and step dad who had been pillars of support. Just before the year started we found out my wife was pregnant with our first son. We could not get a dependent visa for my wife in Singapore, so the only choice was the closest nation of Sri Lanka. I could not let the stress of studies and the rolling emotions of the family losses affect my ability to help with my pregnant wife. Helping keep the apartment, making meals, cleaning and cooking were daily tasks we had to do as we lived by ourselves. By exam time, which was in May, my wife was eight months pregnant and ready to give birth. I had to manage time and learn to be very patient and disciplined. Unable to attend the classes at my study centre of Royal Institute of Colombo, I had to suffice with online libraries and using Amazon Kindle for digital text books as I could not afford to buy hard copies. Working on the Law Skills Pathway programme with a group I found on the online UOL forums meant I was able to choose a group of mature students. This enabled me to have a good support base of people closer to my age (though age and maturity do not always tally, but in general do). I completed my exams and my wife gave birth to a lovely and healthy baby boy.
After the exams we moved back home and started to settle in. I had a student debt of about 45,000 British Pounds and no savings at all but with the biggest smile like a fool in love. The results in August was the only thing in my life that had given me close to as much happiness as the birth of our son. Praise be to God, I passed with a Second Class Honours degree. I have to thank UOL for the library and online resources and other facilitated opportunities that allowed me to study from home; which was the whole purpose of a distance learning programme.
Completing my LLB degree after three years in three countries and three institutes and with family losses of life and gaining of life and so many tears, fears, cheers and happiness, in the end was so much worth the journey to study as well as grow and mature as a person with experiences in life. I would not be here if not for some amazingly inspiring lecturers (I made sure they know who they are) and good friends and family; love and support. There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome if you have a goal, even if your path is not a straight one. That said, LOVE and faith makes all the difference; love for life, for people and for the betterment of this world and faith that you can overcome and achieve if you really want to.