Ailin Attarzadeh from Belfast Metropolitan College is our Leidos UK Student of the Year. Here, Ailin shares how her four-week paid internship at Citi and the support from her mentor Clare, gave her the skills, confidence and opportunity to kickstart a rewarding future.

I came to Belfast as a refugee from Iran at the age of 16 with my older brother as my home country doesn’t encourage freedom of speech or equality. My first year in Belfast was a lonely time for me, I was separated from my brother when I moved into care, not seeing him for several months, and I spoke little English.

At 17, I got a job to support my family back home and, to give myself better future prospects, enrolled at Belfast Metropolitan College to study English, maths, and business. And it was here that I heard about Career Ready.

The support of the Career Ready programme, the college, and all the people I’ve met on the programme has changed my life.

Having a mentor was an amazing opportunity. Clare has guided me through so many important tasks like university applications, personal statements, and my internship. Anytime I needed advice, she was there. I’m so thankful to have her as a mentor and I know her support will continue to be there in the future.

My internship with Citi was such a wonderful experience. I was nervous at first as I wasn’t sure I could do it, but with the encouragement of my tutors and mentor I did it.  It’s now an impressive part of my CV and its turned me into a more confident, self-assured young woman. At the end of my internship I presented to Citi Senior Management Team about everything I had learnt, I never thought I’d be in a position to do something like that.

As part of the Career Ready programme, I also attended masterclasses on topics such as preparing for interviews and presentation skills. This taught me about the expectations an employer would have of me, as well as pushing me out of my comfort zone and develop my communication skills.

I have met so many people through the Career Ready programme that I will keep in touch with. Not only have I made professional connections but friendships with people who I know I can count on.

The Career Ready programme has given me so many opportunities in different ways. It’s really has changed my life completely. I have recently secured a place on the Grant Thornton school leavers programme, which is a five-year course to qualify as an auditor.  And being named the 2020 Leidos Student of the Year is the perfect way to end what has been an amazing journey for me. I never thought I would be in the position I am now.

Discover how you can make a difference to the life of a young person like Ailin.