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Fashion student Zita Obakponovwe shows amazing determination to fulfil her dream at the University of East London

UEL docklands campus
For newly enrolled mature student Zita Obakponovwe, it was a long and winding road to fulfil her dream of studying fashion at university.

Although the single mother-of-two now lives in Catford in south east London, she was born in Nigeria before moving to Italy, where she lived for 22 years.

Four years ago she decided to move again, making a new home in the UK for the sake of her autistic daughter, Zoe.

“Zoe wasn’t getting the right support in Italy,” said Zoe. “I did my research and found that there were a lot of autistic schools here in England.”

Now, at the age of 40, Zoe’s life has taken a new twist after starting a fashion degree course at the University of East London (UEL).

If that was not enough, Zoe has also created her own make-up line called ‘Zitamilano’, which she sells online.

Her achievements are all the more impressive given that she had only a basic command of English when she arrived in the UK in 2003 with her young family.

Once in the UK, her first challenge was to get Zoe diagnosed and then enrolled into an autistic school. 

After her two daughters were settled she then turned her attention to her own development, enrolling at Lewisham College to study English and Maths. She also embarked on a beauty course and somehow found the time to develop her make-up business.

After completing her courses at Lewisham, Zoe finally felt ready to pursue her real passion – fashion.  Although she had no formal qualifications in clothes design, she had years of experience of making her own outfits.

“I went to an interview for a level 3 fashion course at Lewisham but they told me that with the work I had done, I would be good enough to study it at university.”

The next choice was which university to go to. Her teacher at Lewisham had no hesitation recommending the University of East London.  

“He said that for the way I like to work, UEL is one of the best,” said Zoe. “I was offered a place at another university but I didn’t hear good things about them, so I turned it down.  I don’t want to go to university to show off – I want to learn.”

Zita was not only offered a place on the BA (Hons) in Fashion Design at UEL but also a scholarship to help her financially.
 With her enthusiasm and determination, Zita is sure to go far.

“I don’t let anything get in my way,” she said. “If you are determined, nothing can stop you.”