After nine hours and almost 7,000 miles, Joel Manning arrived at the University of Sunderland armed only with a dream.
He had left behind his mum and brother at the family’s home in Saint Michael, Barbados, to take the next step towards achieving his life’s ambition.
Joel, 27, has been playing cricket since he was a schoolboy and his passion for the game has led him to arrive on Wearside to take up an MA in Sports Journalism.
Up until a few months ago, Joel had been working and living in Barbados and had never even heard of the University of Sunderland.
A popular public speaker and event host, he had long wanted to break into the field of TV sports presenting, although opportunities in his hometown were limited.
Joel said: “I got invited to go to Jamaica to do a screen test for a sports presenter TV role. Although I made the shortlist, I didn’t get the job.
“But somebody saw my audition and gave me a lot of positive feedback suggesting I should study sports journalism in the UK.”
So Joel did his research and saw the exciting sports programme offered by the University. He arrived in September and admits the temperature has taken some getting used to.
“I came here not knowing anyone but I’ve made friends,” he says. “I did bring a coat but quickly realised it’s not going to be enough to get through the winter.”
But Joel remains completely focused on his career goals.
He said: “My mind just thinks massive all the time. I want to get out there and work on a global scale. Ideally I’d like to get into the cricket presenting side of things, but I’m happy to do any sports.
“I grew up watching and playing cricket. I actually support India which I get a lot of grief for, being from the West Indies. Although I do whole heartedly want to see them do well too.
“I spent a lot of time working for myself as a speaker, host, and MC. I did a lot of speaking at schools and universities around issues of personal branding and building confidence.”
Once he finishes his year in Sunderland, Joel is hoping to have built up his sports contacts and secured work in the TV presenting field.
So after being in Sunderland for the past two months, is he missing home yet?
“Of course I miss my mum and brother,” Joel says. “I especially miss my mum’s cooking. I have been trying to make a few Caribbean dishes since I’ve been here.”