Refugee week: In conversation with William Gomes, alumnus
20 – 26 June is refugee week, the theme this year is ‘healing’. We spoke with William Gomes, refugee and alumnus, about his time studying at the Trust and his journey. William completed his master’s in Refugee care (M35), a course offered jointly with the University of Essex, in 2020.
William was born in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, where he worked for an international human rights organisation and as a freelance journalist for a news agency and regularly contributed to media outlets. He was forced to flee the country due to persecution for his human rights activities. He was nominated for a protected fellowship at the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights in 2012. Later he sought asylum and was granted refugee status and is now a British citizen. William tells us:
“The road to security and safety was not smooth. The entire process of obtaining asylum frequently deprives those seeking refuge of their dignity.”
William holds a BA in Counselling, coaching and mentoring, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Counselling from York St John University. He shared what inspired him to study his master’s:
“I have worked in different charity setups throughout my studies providing therapeutic support and that inspired me to apply for the Master’s in Refugee care. This is a unique course the only one that fully focuses on working therapeutically with refugees.”
The journey through his Master’s was challenging; he had to balance the demands of the course with family needs, and travel across the country:
“The path resembled my own refugee journey in certain ways. Despite the fact the course is about refugees, only a few refugees attended; I was one of them.
It was pre-covid, so I had to go from York to London and Essex, which meant I had to find a place to stay in London and then travel from London to Essex, as well as make many trips back to York due to my wife’s pregnancy. The entire process was costly, and I relied on crowdfunding to get by, frequently going hungry due to the high cost of train tickets and other connected expenses.”
Despite these challenges it was a rewarding experience academically and on a personal level:
“I was curious to understand my own refugee experience and work with others going through the asylum process. I was lucky to learn from the foremost authorities in systemic psychotherapy, psychoanalytical studies, law, and other subjects who had multidisciplinary expertise. Furthermore, the cohort with whom I studied were all specialists in their own disciplines, bringing years of experience and knowledge to the table. It was a genuine international knowledge hub in and of itself. I learned a lot from them throughout our conversations, and I am eternally grateful to them. I had a fantastic time learning at the Trust.
My studies helped me understand my own experience from a different viewpoint. It also impacted my life and understanding of other people’s refugee journeys and continues to affect my writings and thoughts on refugee issues. The degree paved the route for my doctoral studies.”
Currently William is a doctoral candidate at the University of Essex’s Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies. He lives with his family in York, where he enjoys walking, spending time with his family, listening to music, writing for various media outlets, and continuing his human rights activism. In the future he hopes to work with refugees in a charity setup.
Find out more about the course William studied, master’s in Refugee care (M35). The Trust also offers a 10-week course on Working with refugee people and their families (D35) as well as a two day workshop: An introduction to working with refugees and asylum seekers.