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How to Pursue Graduate Studies in South Africa. Damilola shares her experience.

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Scholar: Damilola Folley

Undergraduate Course and Grade: Physics, Second Class Upper

Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Graduate Degree and University: Rhodes University,Grahamstown, South Africa.

My PhD study focuses on Experimental Solid-state Physics. Let me state my PhD research in lay man’s terms, I am studying materials that glow under certain conditions and their properties, as applied in fields such as electronics, geology, nuclear and medical physics.

How I got funded: In my opinion, studying outside Nigeria for any kind of degree cannot be achieved without adequate funding and financial support. After I received my admission letter into my university of choice, I began the search for funding. A colleague at work informed me about the NRF-TWAS Scholarships. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline. I applied also for the NRF-Free standing scholarship and AIMS/DAAD scholarship, but I was unsuccessful. My supervisor upon seeing my efforts in looking for scholarships, decided to nominate me for PhD funding by the National Research Foundation of South Africa and it was successful. The scholarship I was nominated for was a partial scholarship which covers tuition and accommodation.

Key decisions: To be at liberty to freely choose where to work after my PhD programme, I opted for a study leave without pay from the University where I was lecturing prior to starting my PhD programme. By implication, I spend out of my little savings to support my PhD programme, squeezing myself to cope with minimal income. Since my funding was a partial package, I had to consider jobs like Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, and Librarian.

Challenges: So far, the challenges I face are as follows – having to contend with the phobia or risk of living far from school in a society notable for xenophobic tendencies. Also, a number of times, I have had to cope with the stress of staying up throughout the night in the laboratory for experiments and analyses. Again, I also had to deal with the continuous demand of meeting deadlines, in order present results to my supervisor (meaningful results at that).

What stands out about me: Among other qualities, people keep testifying to my hardworking spirit. This virtue has pushed me thus far with God’s help. I make effort daily to study hard so as to meet up with all deadlines with respect to academic work, and not just that, but also to come up with quality work. I have earlier alluded to the fact that part of the challenges I had to cope with is spending many hours performing experiments in the laboratory. Some days I have had to work throughout the night in the lab monitoring my experiments. This virtue of hard work is sustained by discipline. Many of you would agree with me that in life, without discipline, one can hardly achieve much. Thus, I have to always be conscious of how I manage my time – the activities I indulge and the lifestyle I keep. Another important quality that stands out about me is my ability to make friends easily and relate in a healthy manner within the working space especially and the society at large. This has enabled me to build a home, family and network of friends while faraway from home. To remain psychologically balanced with good functioning capacity, one needs to be in communion with others as social (relational) beings that we are. Due to my friendly and cheerful dispositions, a lot of people (and families) like to associate with me and recommend me as a mentor for their young children. The good people around me have served as backbone and support system which has made my academic journey a lighter and an easy burden to carry.

Advice: I would advise anyone who wants to pursue graduate studies outside their home countries to cherish hard work, be willing to make huge sacrifices, have the courage to make good friends, keep your morals or virtues. I would also add, be polite, be respectful, be humble, be patient, be optimistic, be flexible in order aid easy adaptation and prevent culture shock and be open to learning new good things. Again, I would advise that never start a degree outside your home country without adequate funding facility, try to at least get some form of funding.

You can supplement with student jobs like Teaching Assistant, Graduate Assistant or Tutor. Networking is very essential. Different scholarships have different criteria. Some require that you write certain exams or essays. Meet people who are ahead of you for counsel. Ask questions when in doubt. Be ready to accept a “No” from funding agencies because it is inevitable. Seek God’s direction always. You need a strong support system to help you when you are down. When making your choice of programme of study, some schools require you get a supervisor before applying while some don’t. It is important to consider choosing a supervisor of high repute and qualification in the academia. You will need such supervisors to help you with recommendation letters as well as getting funding.

Scholarship links: Here are some useful scholarship links you can browse through




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