Athena is a passionate advocate of London's extraordinary spirit. Born in east Dulwich, her heart has been forever captivated by the charm of the city that nurtured her dreams. Bound by a shared vision of social justice, she celebrates the power of a London Met education, transforming lives and igniting futures. Her drive to give back to her city, her University, and her community fuels her passion. In a world yearning for connection, Athena illuminates the path to a brighter future.
When I was a child, I thought London was the centre of the world. And I still believe it. I grew up in east Dulwich with my three brothers, my mum is from southern Ireland and my father’s from Cyprus. Life was very different then. I was happy but I found it tricky having the name Athena – it’s a Cypriot name, and I was called Athena after my father’s mother, because the tradition is that the son calls his first daughter after his mother. When you’re called Athena and you’re 10, you feel different, you feel like you don’t belong. I’m happy to say that now I like the name.
I loved my teacher Mrs Gray. She made me feel really special – that’s what a good teacher does. I felt I was noticed.
London has got my heart. I could never leave London. No place could match up to London. It's got everything that you need – physically, culturally, spiritually. You've got all sorts of people coming from different cultures and heritages and backgrounds. It means I belong somewhere. When I go into town, I think to myself, this is mine. This is my city.
I volunteer at a place called the London Jesuit Centre in Mayfair. It’s really glorious there – so many beautiful flowers, the grass is so lush, you meet people from all walks of life, and you learn so much. When you meditate with people and you all do that together in silence, there's something very, very special about that connection that you don't have when there's noise around. It’s just a place where I belong – my spiritual home. It's a hub, not just for courses and spirituality experiences. There are also lunches for people who are homeless. It's a privilege to see people connecting with each other and caring for each other. There’s a community at the London Jesuit Centre that’s very similar to the community at London Met, in that we care about each other.
I consider the day I started work at London Met one of the best days of my life. I liked the idea of working for a place that was about making futures. That's when I applied, and I think that's the best thing I ever did. I just love it here. The students are what makes me stay here, and it’s been great to be able to support them. When teaching is on, I do sometimes peek in the rooms, and just see what they're learning. It seems amazing to me.
I know I’m biased, but we’ve got the best students in London. They’re in my heart, in a way that means “you matter”.
The graduation days are the most wonderful days. Social justice is very, very important to this institution and it's very important to me. The mission of the University has been to widen participation ever since I’ve been here. I believe in that mission, and I’ve seen it work. It’s that idea that you can give some people a chance. It’s got a big heart, this place.
There’s a big emphasis on community here. I consider everyone I meet my community when I’m at London Met. I’d love to see that grow even more. There’s so many events on at London Met that everyone’s welcome to – that’s great. It feels wonderful working at such a diverse university. There’s a sense of individuality – what makes up diversity are lots and lots and lots of individual people. It’s one word, but it means so much – that’s what diversity means to me. I feel thrilled to be in an environment like that. It’s very crucial to me that I work in a place like this.
Every student is important to me – this place transforms people, it changes people – I know what it means to be changed, and how powerful that is. I feel quite emotional now, I feel London Met ‘grew me up’ really.
What is important in life, is to educate and to give back to your city, give back to your university, give back to your community – this is what drives me.
I recognise so many times at London Met where I’ve experienced love – when I’ve been in a difficult situation, one of my colleagues will stop what they are doing and help me. I know they care about me, and I care about them. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. It’s about love.
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"I believe that with education, you can do great things. It doesn't matter where you're from, as long as you have that, you can change the world."
"To me, London Met symbolises change because that's what it did in my life. You can do so much more than you thought you could."
"I've always felt London Met has a very unique feel and brand to it. It's not your typical big university. It's a community university – there’s a really good atmosphere to it."
"Meeting other people is not about right or wrong, it’s about learning and acceptance. London Met really feels like a place where everyone could belong."
"London Met – it doesn't just provide you with academic lessons. It also teaches you life lessons and about different cultures. I think it's so important to go to a university in London because you get to learn from other people too – we're all from different walks of life."
"What I see here is everyone being really welcoming and there's a sense of community which I've never seen at any other institution."
"Being here has shaped many of the things I do and I am grateful to the University and a number of good people I have worked with at London Met for that."
"It is the place where I’ve met some great people who I consider friends. People who share difficulties, struggles, disappointments. Situations that brought us together. I met lecturers who believe in me and keep pushing me to achieve the very best of me."
"As an alumna, London Met means the gateway to the path that led me to realise my passion for social work, to go on to become Principal Lecturer, Head of Social Work and to make a difference to students who come to social work education from diverse backgrounds. Students like me."
"Once I got into a classroom of students, I fell in love with helping them to believe in themselves and to change their practice with young children. I never thought, 20 years ago, that I'd be teaching at a university!"
"The mission of the University has been to widen participation ever since I’ve been here. I believe in that mission, and I’ve seen it work. It’s that idea that you can give some people a chance."
Nils Perez Codesal
"London is a place for me where I could grow in the best way possible. I felt so much more comfortable just being myself."