I have a family living in Hereford, UK. Seeing how desperate the situation was, they consulted us about the possibility of continuing my education in England.
Studying in the UK would present my parents with a very high financial and emotional cost, but my parents prepared themselves for this sacrifice, realising how significant education was for my personal and psychological development. In 1996, I obtained my Student Visa six months after my application and an interview at the British Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus, since the British Embassy in Tehran was closed at the time.
Once the formalities were completed, I moved to Hereford to live with my aunt and her family, in September 1996. My education restarted at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford with a Foundation course in Independent Living, GCSEs in Maths and Psychology, A-Levels in Arts and Psychology and an AS-Level in Statistics. I exhibited my artwork both locally and nationally, and sold some of my paintings at these events. I was also the recipient of the Prize in Classical Art from The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers in 1999.
Coming from a very close-knit family, moving away hurt me more than I had prepared myself for and the feelings of homesickness ran deep. The daily interactions with the friendly staff at the College and the living arrangements with fellow students created a substitute family, albeit in an unrealistic, protective and sheltered environment. The specialised and accessible campus deluded me with an independence, alien to me even six years earlier. That said The ‘Blind College’ in Hereford, as it was known amongst students, provided a safe and comfortable space to develop my potential and gain confidence, something that I had longed for.
Funding the impossibly high college tuition fee was also a big burden for my family. For my final two years at college as well as receiving contributions from my family, my aunt and I started applying to charitable educational trusts to help me with the funding. I was awarded different amounts of bursaries by various trusts as well as a discretionary award from the college. This is how I managed to complete my college years and then start an undergraduate course at Staffordshire University in History of Art, Architecture and Design.