Posted Tuesday 13 August 2019
Ese Akpochimoraa was just 15 when her mother Marian tragically passed away after suffering a brain haemorrhage weeks before her own graduation ceremony. Crossing the stage on behalf of her family to collect the degree her mother had worked so hard for, Ese was determined to make her proud by going on to study at university herself.
"Mum was a real inspiration for me," Ese, from Lewisham in south east London, said. "She was the first in our family to go to university, finding the time to study in the evenings despite working as a nurse and bringing up four children. She was always pushing me to succeed and I knew it would have meant the world to her to see me graduate."
Despite not having secured the A-levels she was hoping for, a call to Kingston University's Clearing hotline helped the now 24 year old secure a place on a mechanical engineering course.
"I didn't do well in my A-levels the first time around and when I went back and retook them I still didn't get the grades I needed for the places I'd applied for. I called a few universities and they couldn't help, I was running out of options and didn't know where to go," she said.
"Then I tried Kingston and spoke to one of the tutors on the course. He looked at my GCSEs and we talked about what my options were. I was offered a place with a foundation year, which I passed. Now, a few years on, I'll be graduating with a masters in engineering in January."
It was in 2010 that Ese's mother collapsed while working at Lewisham hospital and passed away a short time later. She had just finished a nursing course at the University of Greenwich and Ese can remember her delight at completing her degree.
"It was so sudden, she had just passed her driving test as well," Ese said. "I remember her receiving her university award in the post and showing it to me, saying 'Ese, I've done it!'. As the eldest I had the honour of collecting her award. It was all a bit of a blur, I didn't really fully understand the implications of a degree and what it can do for you then.
"I find myself looking back, wishing I had been more understanding of all the work she put in to raising us, doing a job and studying in the evenings. But now it motivates me to really push myself as hard as I can to achieve my goals."
Ese's passion for problem solving led to her interest in studying mechanical engineering. Now she hopes to be able to make a difference with the skills she's learned after she graduates.
"I've always loved puzzles – the concepts of why things fit together and fall apart," she said. "I enjoy looking at how things can be done better, finding ways to make life easier for people through design and technology. Eventually I'd love to start my own company but for now I just can't wait to apply all the skills I've developed during the course and see what impact it can have in the real world."
Her advice for anyone going through the Clearing process now is clear. "I would say don't give up – you have your whole future ahead of you and grades aren't everything. Pick up the phone and make that call. University can be truly transformative and help you achieve your dreams. Mum was the first in our family to graduate, now I'm determined to be the first to go on and make a real difference with my degree."
Dr Ali Heidari, course leader for mechanical and automotive engineering at Kingston University, said Ese's dedication and drive shone through from the moment she started the course. "Ese is a brilliant student who is not afraid to ask questions and is incredibly hard working," he said. "She takes the time to understand how things work and the principles behind them - her passion for engineering is really clear. I'm sure she will go on to have a successful career and make a real impact on the industry once she graduates."