Buddhist Monk Bhante Ananda Mangala and his college friend, Samuel Johnson, revisited West London College last week, as they celebrated their return to the institution where they graduated over forty years ago. Samuel holds the distinction of being one of the earliest students to enter Hammersmith & Fulham College when it first opened its doors in 1980. Bhante Ananda Mangala, who enrolled a couple of years later, is notably the only Buddhist monk known to have been a student at the college.
Samuel studied A-levels in Maths, Further Maths, and Engineering, advancing to King’s College to complete a degree in Physics and Electronics. Now retired at the age of 69, Samuel spent the majority of his career working for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Originally from Sri Lanka, Bhante Ananda Mangala completed English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses at WLC, then known as Hammersmith & West London College.
Bhante Ananda Mangala continued: “I acquired my understanding of the English language and UK culture through my studies at the college. Interacting with students from diverse backgrounds enriched my knowledge of international cultures. West London College has played a pivotal role in shaping the person I am today.”
His educational journey continued with the International Baccalaureate. Following A-levels, he studied Philosophy at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University). Today, four decades later, he continues to dedicate himself to teaching, training, and travelling, overseeing schools in Sri Lanka, Finland, and London, with a specialisation in educating children with disabilities in Sri Lanka.
On their return to WLC, both alumni were struck by the transformations that had taken place. The reception area was completely new to them, and the grand Foyer staircase they once knew, leading up to the Learning Centre is now no longer there.
Their tour of the college included the spacious cafeteria, offering a striking view of St. Paul’s Studios and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), highlighting the rich cultural and educational history of the area.
Recalling their college days, both friends revisited the tables and corners where they had once regularly sat and worked, an experience that resonated deeply with each of them.
Samuel shared his feelings, saying: “From the moment I first came here, I fell in love with the place.”
Bhante Ananda Mangala reflected on the visit, stating: “It was a truly awe-inspiring experience to revisit my first college in the UK after nearly 40 years, bringing back memories, including the changes to the college building and its surroundings.”