Making a Difference - Mellisa's Story

Mellisa is a final-year student studying Nursing (Mental Health) in DCU. She left Zimbabwe in 2016, when the country was under the regime of Robert Mugabe. As she completes her final nursing placement, she reflects on how far she has come with the help of the University of Sanctuary programme.

“I came to Ireland from Zimbabwe as an asylum seeker in December 2016. At first, it was a bit of a culture shock. It was so cold that winter, I wore a puffer jacket all the time, even in the house!

Soon after I arrived, I started studying a Level 5 course in healthcare, and our modules in dealing with dementia and schizophrenia grew my interest in mental health nursing. I didn’t then have the papers to work, but I went on to do a Level 6 course in Coolock, and later applied to study Nursing at DCU. When I was accepted, I was delighted. This is where my dream is, and I was determined not to let the fees stand in my way.

I first heard about the University of Sanctuary programme when I applied to DCU. Even though I had some savings before I left Zimbabwe, I certainly didn’t have anything close to the €18,000 needed to pay international student fees.

“But I wanted to become someone and make a difference, so I wasn’t going to let money stop me.”


I talked to the International Admissions Office, and they were able to help me, and in second year I was accepted into the University of Sanctuary programme. Through the University of Sanctuary programme, I was able to get a laptop and financial support. Thanks to that support, I’m not always stressed and I’m able to get the school supplies I need. We get lunch vouchers too, so I always have food at college, and it really helps out.

I chose to study Mental Health Nursing at DCU because it is close to my heart. Where I come from, people have challenges with mental health, but they don’t address it. There isn’t as much education about mental health back home, and there are a lot of stereotypes around it.

I’m on my final-year placement now with the Phoenix Care Centre in Grangegorman. Reflecting on where I started, I can see how far I’ve come. My journey is easier now that I’m not worried about fees. It was sometimes challenging to balance college work with placement work, especially when I was also working part-time as a Project Worker with the Peter McVerry Trust. But I was able to help people out as they navigate life, and navigate homelessness and addiction.

After my course, I hope I’ll be able to keep working in mental health services. I will need a few years’ experience before I apply for a Master’s, but I’m looking into different opportunities.

I would like to thank the people who have donated to this programme. To have this opportunity makes such a huge difference. It is usually financial problems that cause people to drop out, but now everything is taken care of. It means a lot to grant us that security, where all we need to do for a better life is to study, without worrying about tuition fees and what you have to eat.

There are different ways people empower themselves, but I think education can give everyone a chance in life.”

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