An English student who stayed at a Kingston homeless shelter has graduated university aged 52.

Esther Wangui grew up in Kenya before moving to the UK.

After taking a university access course, she signed up for the Creative Writing and English undergraduate course at University of London's Birkbeck College.

During her first year on the course, tragedy struck when her step son Steve died from suicide.

Her former husband died the same way some years before, and 2018 became a "year of mourning" as Ms Wangui recalled.

Such personal tragedies were only compounded after the expenses for Steve's funeral meant that she could not afford to pay rent on time.

Her landlord promptly kicked her out of the rented accommodation she was staying in — Esther was made destitute.

"It was difficult at first. I felt stupid, ashamed, and angry at myself, but was also traumatised by Steve's death.

"2018 was a year of mourning, but as I was staying at a night shelter in Kingston, I had no privacy, nowhere to cry, no friends to share the downs with," she recalled.

Esther nevertheless continued to study for her course that she described as "such a privilege", despite having to contend with the daunting pressures of homelessness, among which were sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

"The greatest challenge was being woken early every morning, having to leave the shelter at 10am and returning in the evening, cold and tired.

"While I was homeless, I even 'slept' at the airport several times, but mainly I read or wrote poetry. I was constantly lacking sleep and at times, fatigue affected my concentration.

"I wrote most of my assignments on the long train and bus journeys, and on weekends I worked from the Kingston University library, watching the winter turn to spring and then to summer," Ms Wangui described.

The English graduate was candid on how difficult talking about being homeless can be as she praised the support of the staff at the night shelter and Birkbeck.

"Homelessness is not something one can share easily, so I didn’t tell my friends or fellow students. Staff at the shelter were very supportive, cheering me on...although my class tutor did not know about the homelessness, he was always very supportive," she recalled.

Eventually, Esther's remarkable endurance and persistence paid off.

In her final year she filed dissertations on war-torn regions and the rape crisis in the DRC, and has since graduated Birkbeck College.

Now in a more secure accommodation, Ms Wangui has enrolled on a Master's course at SOAS (Near and Middle Eastern studies and Hebrew), and hopes to work in the region one day.

Looking back on her experiences, Esther pointed out how keeping focus on her end goal had helped her get through so many troubles:

"I envisioned the day I could at last say, ‘I held on, I tried my best. I graduated from university.’”