Leaving the small Caribbean island of Montserrat aged 16 to travel over 4,000 miles to London is no small feat. But Naveena Dhera had known from a young age that if she wanted to pursue further education she would need to travel as formal education on the island stopped after GCSEs.
“I followed in the footsteps of my older sister and two cousins coming to London,” said Naveena, now 23, whose parents are from India and settled on the British Overseas Territory in the 1980s.
She enrolled on a Business Level 3 Diploma at City and Islington College (CANDI) and has gone on to graduate with a BSc (Hons) Marketing and Management from Queen Mary University of London and is now studying an MSc International Marketing with Consumer Psychology at the same university.
“It was hard to find student accommodation that would accept me at such a young age but eventually I did and the staff at the college were a great support. The biggest adjustment was the cold British weather!”
Naveena wasted no time in emerging herself fully into student life at CANDI and the Islington community including being elected to Islington Youth Council.
“A month after joining college I ran for the Islington Youth Council. The college staff and students were incredibly supportive and I was delighted when my campaign was successful and I won the election,” she said.
“I also became a course rep at CANDI and as a result of both the roles I was involved in lots of committee meetings, and travelled to different schools and colleges to discuss student issues.”
In addition to her burgeoning political career, she also took what she had learned about marketing while on her Business diploma one step further than most.
“I’ve always been interested in marketing since I studied it as part of my GCSE in Business Studies. When buying a product, I love thinking about the marketing and advertising behind it,” she said.
The more Naveena learnt about marketing the more she began to think about how she marketed herself to people, both with Islington Youth Council and later roles she ran for at university.
“At college I studied services marketing and did a lot of research about how supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s market themselves,” she said.
“I got involved in helping to market the college itself too. My face was pictured on huge marketing posters locally and every time I went to my local supermarket all the staff would recognise me as the girl on the poster. I never imagined I would become famous as a result of it!”
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Naveena , who lives in Tower Hamlets, also represented students on CANDI’s Equality and Diversity Committee.
She said: “CANDI had a very diverse mix of students. In the Caribbean everyone is more focused on one background whereas at college and university it was rich in diversity, especially at Queen Mary where I got involved in learning about Hindiusm and became heavily involved in the National Hindu Students Forum.”
While studying for her BSc, Naveena ran for the student elections and was voted in as a student rep for three years in a row. During that time she campaigned to reduce fees for students.
She also became President of the Indian Society in her third year and was also on the events team for the National Hindu Students Forum (NHSF) and its marketing rep the previous year.
Naveena’s achievements earned her CANDI’s Director’s Award from CANDI. She was also one of the colleges recipients in the Jack Petchey Achievement Awards, which recognise outstanding achievements of young people across London and Essex.
Inspired by the support she’s received by peers, tutors and careers advisers, Naveena is now looking towards the next step in her journey.
“I’m really enjoying the start of my MSc and would like to work in a luxury brands company in the future, or set up my own company helping students from overseas to secure places at colleges and universities and to support their transition.”