Woman who arrived in UK with nothing and unable to speak English is now a lecturer at Welsh university – Wales Online
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A woman who arrived in the UK with nothing and unable to speak a word of English has spoken of the inspirational journey of dedication and hard work which has seen her become a senior lecturer at a Welsh university.
Dr Vera Ndrecaj left her home country of Albania with her husband, Gezim, daughter, Albana, and son, Jetmir, back in 2002 in search of a better life after feeling unsafe where they were. They arrived without anything, having to start again in a completely different culture and society. The children were able to speak more English than their parents.
“We arrived in the UK with nothing and not quite knowing what to expect and how we going to integrate into the society,” Vera said.
“We didn’t speak English at all. Our kids went through a very basic course in Albania but spoke the very basics at the time, no more than being able to say yes and no, and a few other words like food and water – extremely basic. The reason we decided to move was more of a political reason rather than economic. We decided we would feel safer in Wales.
“At the time, Albania was going through transition and there was a lot of uncertainty in many ways. The most difficult decision was to leave my husband’s mother and my parents behind but it was for the sake of our kids and our safety.
“We decided upon Cardiff because we felt it was a nice place to be, and my brother was living here. For the first year it was a case of getting used to the new culture, new reality, a new country, which was quite difficult. We looked at it in context and asked how we were going to build our lives here rather than relying on any kind of help. We all know the Government has a fantastic system to help people like us, and at the time we knew we had to build our life and wanted to be part of society, an active part of society rather than passive.”
After moving to the Grangetown area of Cardiff, where they still live today, Albana and Jetmir attended English schools, and Vera went on her own journey.
She said: “It was quite difficult for me as a mother and a wife trying to make sense of our new lives and try and figure out what I’m trying to do in the future. One thing I knew for sure was I wanted to focus on self development.
“I knew I wanted to complete English courses up to university level and this is what I did. I achieved a BTEC and a National Diploma, and then one day, my life was changed. One of my lecturers asked me ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I was looking at her and my eyes clearly indicated how desperate I was to figure it out. She told me I had made fantastic progress on the courses and told me she would help me complete a university application and sent it to UCAS.
“I was in disbelief that it was a possibility. I applied to Cardiff University and Glamorgan, and Glamorgan accepted my application. It was the happiest of days.”
Vera never looked back and went on to achieve a BA Hons in business and management then an MBA, a postgraduate certificate in higher education and a PhD.
The 53-year-old has gone on to become an experienced university lecturer, researcher and consultant. She was a lecturer in supply chain management at the University of South Wales where she successfully directed undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. She is now a senior lecturer and project manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Her children have also both gone on to achieve senior management positions in their chosen paths, following in their mum’s footsteps.
Vera said: “I have not stopped since I came here and I don’t regret a thing. I would not change anything. Self development was a big decision and has taken me to where I am today. It was kind of a demonstration to my children how you can not only integrate into a new society but you can build a foundation for success. Both my kids have followed my pathway.
“Every day I feel satisfied knowing I have an impact on my students’ lives supporting them through their journey and helping them gain through higher education courses. Personally I’m still working as hard as I worked on the first day I arrived in this country in terms of further accomplishments. I am currently turning my PhD into a book.”
This content was originally published here.