Nils Perez Codesal
Nils grew up in foster care in Germany but later moved to the UK to become an au pair. He's now studying a subject he's been passionate about since a teenager – in a university and city where he feels accepted for who he is.
When I told people I was a foster child, that was basically what defined me. In Germany, foster care is mainly given in the form of children's homes. There's a team of social workers or similarly skilled people to look after you and the one who had my case was also the leader of the house. I found it just so inspiring because she was achieving so much, I wanted to get to a point where I was also achieving.
The first 11 years of my life were in Berlin, then I went to a boarding school that was in a small village in the north of Germany. After that, I moved to my father’s in a small city that was somewhat progressive. Most of the population were students, but it was in a part of Germany that is very old-fashioned. You could really feel all those right-wing ideologies around you, and you would have to be careful about how you express yourself, especially when you are openly homosexual.
I already knew I wanted to at least have some experience abroad. I decided to become an au pair and, as English was the only language I spoke, I went to the UK. In the beginning, I was in Ascot, but I went as an au pair a lot to Reading, and even in Reading, I felt already that people were so much more accepting of me being a gay man. And then when I came to London, I did not at all have any problems. I really liked the huge diversity that London had to offer. There’s an exchange of ideas, culture, beliefs, and also a lot of acceptance. I just felt very, very much more welcomed and free. London is a place for me where I could grow in the best way possible. I felt so much more comfortable just being myself.
I applied initially for social work because I went through foster care and I thought it would be a great idea to give back. Without the social workers in my life, I wouldn't have gotten to a place where I could go to school and even go to another country. I wouldn't have been the well-rounded and independent person that I am now.
Psychology has been my passion since I was 15; I come from a background where there are a lot of mental health issues and alcoholism. I discovered I was more interested in being a therapist and knew I had to study psychology in order to become one.
This university, luckily, which I'm very happy about, gave me the chance to transfer to psychology – and it's one of the best decisions that I had made. From week one I was making friends. The course was just fascinating to me from day one.
I went to counselling here at the University – the counselling was amazing. I felt so supported by it. The counsellor listened so well to my problems and always found a way to make me understand what the root of the problem is.
I would tell my 15-year-old self: If you have a passion, just do it and you will eventually, with practice, get to a point where you're happy with yourself. Even though you cannot see it in the beginning, there will be a point where you will be so well practised that you have a result you can be happy with.
Don't listen to what others say. Don't let them put you down because I have let others define who I was for the longest time. And I'm now still struggling with breaking out of that and being actually true to myself. You need to have exposure to create acceptance. Violence and hate can come with that. But inevitably, because the people just won't disappear, it will, at some point, create acceptance. Those voices will, over time, grow stronger and stronger and stronger.
Explore more of our real London storiesView allExplore more of our real London stories
"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."