An Iraqi refugee who could barely speak a word of English when he arrived in the UK has aced his A-levels and will soon head off to university to study medicine.
High Storrs School student Anas Al-Dabbagh, aged 19, got straight As in biology, chemistry and physics, on top of an A in Arabic at A-level and an A in maths at AS level last year.
He will begin a medical degree at Newcastle University in September – and he hopes one day to become a neurosurgeon.
In 2012, Anas fled the unimaginable violence of the Iraqi capital Baghdad with his mum, dad and two brothers, first moving to London and then being relocated to Sheffield.
He then started at Firth Park Academy in 2013, moving to High Storrs in 2014, where he completed his GCSEs and now his A levels.
Anas said: “I remember the first day at Firth Park. I didn’t have any friends and I couldn’t speak any English – the only thing I could say was my name.”
Because he was so far behind the other pupils, his teachers advised him the only way to catch up was to devote his free time to practising his English.
To do this he would watch YouTube videos to familiarise himself with the language and improve his accent.
“I used to work all the time – I came back from school and would do another full day of revision,” he said.
Anas lives on Abbey Brook Drive in Meadowhead with his mum Asmaa, dad Omar and younger brother Abdullah.
His older brother Hamzah is at Keele University studying pharmacology.
The family had been living a comfortable life in Abu Dhabi, only moving back to Baghdad after Anas’ father lost his job there as an electrical engineer.
There they were plunged into the middle of a vicious civil war, and the family made the difficult decision to flee the country as refugees.
“It was very dangerous and there were lots of threats to my dad as he worked for an American company,” said Anas.
“You never knew what you were going to wake up to. The people who live there live in constant fear of bombs. I feel so glad that we got out of that situation.”
When they first came to the UK they were placed in a hostel in London for 40 days then relocated to Page Hall in Sheffield.
There, he attended Firth Park Academy for around six months before moving to High Storrs School at the beginning of 2014.
While Anas struggled at Firth Park, at High Storrs he thrived.
He said: “Being surrounded by people who wanted to do well made me have the drive that I needed. It motivated me to do better.”
In the end, in his GCSEs he got three A*s and six As and the chance to continue his studies at the sixth form.
And now, two years later, he is celebrating getting equally excellent results in his A levels.
Speaking at the family home, Asmaa said: “I am very proud of him. He has worked very hard over the last four years.”
Anas said he decided to pursue medicine as a career after his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and he was inspired by the impact doctors can have on people’s lives.
Through a family connection he was also given the opportunity to watch a neurosurgeon at work at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, and has now set his sights on following in his footsteps.