SPOTLIGHT: Andreas Odysseos

Speaking to Andreas on the phone, there is a sense of motivation and ambition that is almost contagious. It’s clear that this is a man who has worked hard for his successes – and one who is grateful for all the opportunities along the way.

Having moved to the UK at 10 years old, Andreas is a fantastic example of somebody who has thrived from taking on opportunities wholeheartedly. He acknowledges his transition to life in London as one of the major milestones in his journey so far, presenting him with new challenges at a young age… Something experienced by many young people in our diverse city.

“I was born in Uganda and grew up in the capital, Kampala. I still have family there – I hope I can go back and visit in the next coming years. I’m sure a lot has changed over the course of 10 or 11 years.

“We all have challenges, whether they’re small or big. When you move to a different country, especially at a young age, it’s a challenge. You’re leaving your friends, the familiarity of what you’re used to at home. Even though I had family here and visited most Christmas’, it’s different getting used to this being your life. Making new friends, getting used to a new culture.”

It is a challenge that is faced by so many young people in the capital, with 3.3 million migrants in London. In fact, last year 73% of young people on London Youth’s programmes were from Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic communities, with a number of those having recently moved to the UK.

Andreas makes a great case for why being able to get involved in programmes like sports can be so important to those young people:

“I tried to fit in and make new friends, joining football teams and getting stuck in. I’m thankful that because of the way I was brought up, I had confidence. I took it all head-on and I wasn’t necessarily introverted. That’s how I like to learn. It has an impact on everything around you.

“I would describe myself as a sociable, gregarious person. I like meeting new people and going out with friends but, as I’ve aged, I like staying in too: you need to have a balance. Having too much of something is not good for you really.”

And for Andreas, a confident attitude and ‘getting stuck in’ has paid off. He is the first of his immediate family to have gone to University. Talking to him, it’s clear that this has always been a keen goal…

 “Getting into Uni was huge for me. It was a joyous moment for my family: when they were seeing someone who they’ve watched grow up get into University, they were so proud. But I wanted to do it not only for them, but for myself. It was a big thing for all of us.

“I’m driven in my future goals and aspirations; I think I developed that from a young age. When you’re young you get your drive through playing sports, games, or trying to be the best in your class.

“Getting older, that drive gets stronger because you want to get to a place where you’re achieving the career and life heights you’ve dreamt of. You’re always going to have that aspiration to get to the next step.”

“It’s difficult to say if I’m where I thought I would be when I was younger. I always knew I would go to a higher level of education, but as you go through life, you’re always picking up a love of different subjects, so I didn’t know what I’d be doing in University back then. I just knew I wanted to get there.”

But it wasn’t always plain sailing for Andreas, as it rarely is for anyone. He admits there were moments where his focus shifted; something that most of us struggle with as we move through our teenage years and early twenties. But even these moments seem to have motivated Andreas to succeed further, which is what makes him a fantastic example of how determination can help you reach your goals.

“To get to Uni, you have to get the grades. It’s like anything in life: you must work to get to where you want to go. I think the questions ‘how do you describe yourself’ and ‘what do you want in the future’ hold a lot of weight, but it can be useful to think about these things when you’re younger. I would always suggest having a plan, and trying to stick to it: that way, it will help deter you from going down the wrong path.

“I did have a lot of stumbles along the way. I didn’t get the best GCSE results that I should have because I lost focus. It’s easy to do so. People tend to forget that as a teenager you’re trying to find yourself. You can get lost within the sauce. You’re a different version of yourself, evolving all the time as you age.

“And it’s ok to change. Sometimes your goals start to differ. You might start your journey thinking you want to be a Partner at a business, then later down the line realise you want to set up your own company. It’s ok to change as you learn and meet new people and take on new opportunities.”

When asked how he overcame these challenges – emigrating, studying, growing up – Andreas credited his Dad for always being there to support him.

“I like to deal with some of the things I go through in my own way, so I didn’t lean on lots of people… But I live with my dad and he’s a big part of who I am. He gives me advice and he’s a good ear; I speak to him about anything.

“My dad is one of those figures that helped me along the way and kept me more focussed. He reminds me of my goals and aspirations and that I might not reach them if I do something that’s deterring me from them. I give it to my dad and my aunts who are also influential and active in my life.”

As young people of today make tough decisions about their futures, in a cost of living crisis and having had years of education disrupted by a pandemic, we want to share the importance of leaning on these supportive figures when you need to. For some, like Andreas, it is family: for many others in London, it is their youth worker, mentors, or role models at their local youth club.

With the right support and the ability to reach out to people they trust around them, young people are much more able to thrive, be inspired, and work hard while maintaining their well-being.

Andreas also drew attention to the importance of being invested and interested in the topics you are focussing on in order to succeed – but most importantly to remain happy and motivated. Now, as he studies for his University course, he is glad he made specific choices to help him craft his ideal future career.

“My advice for those trying to get to University: keep on working hard. It’s not plain sailing. Once you get there though, and you’re choosing the subject you’re going to do, try and be guided by the subjects you do really enjoy.

“You might really like Economics… But what part of it provokes you most? Do you enjoy the financial markets maybe? There may be different courses available to you. If you like Economics but your strength is in numbers, you could do Accounting. Or for example, I am interested in property, so I chose Property Finance and investment instead of general Economics. Being specific about that can help you get into a field you a really keen about.”

Andreas recently completed his placement year at Montagu-Evans, a property consultancy company. They are part of the Residential Development Agents Society (RDAS), who have generously supported London Youth for the last few years, believing in the power of youth work to help young Londoners through a time of major change, growth, and uncertainty.

In fact, it was Adrian Owen and Romy Edison, of RDAS and Montagu Evans, who introduced London Youth to Andreas: he was recommended for Born Ambitious as an incredible example of a hard-working individual on a trajectory of success. Andreas reflected fondly on his time working there.

“My placement year was another recent highlight. It was on the back of the pandemic too. It helps you see how things are going to apply to the real world and how it all happens in the actual workplace.

“It really taught me about time management, most of all. In the workplace you’ve got deadlines, work coming in, you’ve got to use the way you manage your time to complete it all. It was a key thing that I learnt when I was there. It’s crucial to success. You can’t buy time.”

We asked Andreas for some final inspiring words for young people, or words he would have wanted to hear when he was young. His response was simple and powerful:

“To anyone else who has moved to the UK: you’re here now, I would say that you have to take it head on and move forwards. Get yourself into those opportunities and try and build yourself. Look at it almost like a restart: you can be the person that you’ve always wanted to be. It’s a chance to reinvent and improve.

“And in general: if you’re struggling, ask for help. Plain and simple. It’s always hard and difficult, thinking you can do things on your own. But once you’ve reached out – whether it’s your teacher, friend, or anyone you trust – it will take a lot off your shoulders that you didn’t even realise was there.”