AN Ethiopian asylum seeker was among 112 graduates who proudly filed through Swindon town centre today to celebrate completing their courses.

Shuaib Adem, 30, came to the UK in 2014 after escaping from prison in Ethiopia, where he says he was held for protesting against the government for human rights breaches. He travelled thousands of miles to get to the UK, passing through Sudan and Libya before taking a boat to Italy with hundreds of other refugees.

Yesterday Shuaib, who lives in Northampton, was awarded his certificate for completing a four-year Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Swindon College.

“I’m so happy today,” he said. “I am so thankful to the British government, the community in Swindon and the college who gave me the opportunity to turn my life around.”

Shuaib says he wants to start working as a teacher as soon as possible and build a new life for him and his wife. “I was a refugee and was in prison in Ethiopia for one month and two days for opposing the government but managed to escape,” he said.

“I ran away at night with three friends then went to my uncle’s house before coming to the UK.”

The procession of students, led by Royal Wootton Bassett Town Crier Owen Collier and Mayor of Swindon Maureen Penny, wound its way up Princes Street from Jurys Inn.

Some 450 excited friends, relatives and lecturers watched as the graduates strode into Holy Rood Church where the award ceremony took place.

Jodie Voller, 21, from Stratton St Margaret, completed a two-year foundation degree in Educational Practice with the help of her deaf interpreter. She will now complete her final year studying Education and Lifelong Learning and hopes to become a teacher for people with hearing difficulties.

“I want to inspire deaf people,” said Jodie, who is planning to celebrate her graduation with her course mates.

“I can’t stop crying,” said her proud sister Leah.

Janet Norris, 47, Alyson Kerslake, 25, and Tom Law, 21, all completed a three-year Sports Therapy bachelor’s degree.

Rodpour resident Alyson, who got married in August, is working as a cafe manager and hopes to become an NHS rehabilitation assistant at the Great Western Hospital.

Tom, from Wichelstowe, is working as part of a fundraising team at the National Trust.

“I learned a lot of people skills and how to talk to people better,” he said.

“I’ve become a stronger person.”

Janet, who lives in Purton with her husband and two children who suffer from autism, is now self-employed and working part time as a sports therapist.

“Our lecturer knew the subject like the back of his hand,” she said.

Founded in 1843, Swindon College began as a secondary school and technical college before its School of Art was erected – the first purpose-built art school in south west England.

Its main campus building, next door to one of Swindon’s largest leisure centres and built over three floors, was opened in 2006.