From Ethiopia to Burnley: former refugee achieves lifelong dream of studying medicine at UCLan

Danny Danboba
Danny Danboba
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Two weeks ago, Danny Danboba arrived in Burnley at the end of a 14-year journey ready to start a brand new one. Having fled war, lived in refugee camps, and travelled 4,000 miles, Danny is raring to go. A place at the University of Central Lancashire's Burnley campus awaits.


Born in Shashamane, Ethiopia, Danny has always dreamed of being a doctor. Forced to flee his home country as a 10-year-old with his mother Pasi due to the violence of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, Danny spent two years living in a refugee camp in Kenya where he experienced searing 45°C temperatures, widespread poverty, and criminal activity.

Danny at Hull College.

Danny at Hull College.

"It was... I don't know how to describe it," said Danny on having to flee Ethiopia. "The war broke out and we had to flee to Kenya not knowing if it was safe there either. Living in the camp was a challenge. You had to take yourself to school and sometimes it was too hot for the teacher to come. I had to go through all this and keep studying. The dream kept me going."

At 11, Danny worked as a waiter to support his mother, bringing drinks to the doctors working in a nearby private clinic. Describing the clinic as 'the perfect place for me', Danny would badger the doctors to show him the equipment. Impressed by his passion, they duly did, letting Danny look through their microscopes and sparking in him a lifelong ambition to become a medical professional.

"I've always wanted to become a doctor; at the local clinic, I asked myself 'will I ever get here?' Danny said. "I nearly gave up because of the doubts - not going to school and not having support... I felt like I wasn't going to achieve it. People told me it was impossible, but I never believed that. I felt something. It was a challenge; it was a dream."

Fiercely intelligent - he speaks five languages - and committed like few others, Danny left Kenya at 21, coming to the UK to apply for university. Trawling through every uni website he could find in the hope of getting a degree in medicine, Danny eventually got a job as a carer with the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust where patients would tell him how good a doctor he would make given his warm bedside manner whilst working on the wards.

"I worked as a carer for three years and I really enjoyed it," Danny explained. "I had a passion for healthcare, so it was a good pathway; a good way to learn. I have an inquisitive mind and everything in science I learned in English. I never failed at science, so I have always been confident."

Despite having been rejected by UCLan originally in 2017, Danny was unperturbed. "I came across UCLan and I felt something inside," he said. "That this was where I was going to achieve my dream."

Earlier this year, Danny was accepted onto the UCLan course in medicine at their Burnley campus. "I was over the moon," Danny said, having never set foot in Burnley prior to arriving for university this September. "It was incredible; it was what I had been waiting for and wishing for all my life."

Two weeks into his course, and Danny is in his element. "It's absolutely amazing," he said, simply.