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Published: 29 November 2022

Meet our first Forever Surrey Scholar

Feranmi Ajileye lost her mother aged eight and she was brought up by her brother. Now studying psychology, she’s the first recipient of our Forever Surrey Scholarship…

The Forever Surrey Scholarship was established in July 2022 to support students from a care-experienced background. This includes those who’ve lived with a foster family or in residential care. Or, like our first award recipient, Feranmi Ajileye, in official kinship care.

“My mom passed away when I was eight,” says Feranmi, 18, who’s originally from Swanley in Kent. “After that, I moved in with my brother, Yomi. He became my guardian and I lived with him until I came to Surrey.

“University is the first time I’ve lived away from home. It was a bit daunting at first, but I like being independent. I’ll obviously go back to see my brother. I’ll stay with my sister sometimes as well.”

Choosing Surrey

Feranmi’s brother not only provided kinship care. He also recommended the University to her.

“My brother went to Surrey and he studied engineering, so I knew it was a good place,” explains Feranmi. “The employability rankings are high, too, so I know I have a good chance of securing a decent job.

“I also just liked it more than other universities. I felt comfortable here.”

Feranmi’s currently a fresher in her first term studying a BSc in Psychology.

“Losing my mother at a young age had a life-changing impact on me as I learned to cope with the loss,” reveals Feranmi. “My interest in psychology, particularly mental health, stems from this. I did psychology at A Level and that confirmed it was the subject I wanted to study at university.”

Student life and after

Feranmi’s easing her way into undergraduate life.

I’ve made good friends,” she adds. “Some of them are on my course and some are studying in other departments. Living in Manor Park works for me because it’s slightly removed from the main campus where I study. I like that separation between my work and my home life.

“In terms of extra-curricular activities, I’m toying with the idea of trying the Judo and Jui-Jitsu Society, and I’ll be joining the Afro-Caribbean Society.”

Feranmi’s studying a four-year course as she wants to take a professional training year. And she’s already thinking about what her future holds.

Feranmi comments: “One career option could be using my degree to become a child psychotherapist to help children suffering from grief. Traumatic events such as loss can trigger mental health disorders. Speaking from personal experience, it can be challenging for children to come to terms with an event they’re not equipped to understand.

“Other options include studying for a masters or moving into a tech-related sector. It’s important to have back-up plans.”

Supporting scholarships

Also important is support for care-experienced young people. One recent study showed that only 11.8 per cent of this group go into higher education, compared to 43.1 per cent of all young people. Feranmi suspects a lack of funding plays a large part in this.

She explains: “People from poorer backgrounds often struggle to afford higher education. The tuition fees alone are probably a big reason why people from a care-experienced background are more reluctant to go to university.

“That makes scholarships even more vital. They make a big difference when it comes to providing support to people like me and securing access to university.

“I was lucky because I always had my brother. But he’s started his own family, so he has other financial priorities.

“The Forever Surrey Scholarship will provide financial support for me with living costs. I plan on getting a job, but I also want to devote as much time as possible to immersing myself in my studies. I can’t really do that with just a student loan. There’s also a cost-of-living crisis to face.

“My brother always had my back and I’ve been blessed to have his help. I’ve now been awarded this scholarship and I feel even more supported. I have the chance to have a more stable life and a successful career because of it.

“But lots of people for care-experienced backgrounds will not have that. And they should.”

Click here for more details on the Forever Surrey Scholarship.

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