My pursuit of a scholarship for postgraduate studies began during my tenure at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP environment, characterized by highly educated individuals, many with dual master’s degrees, prompted me to recognize the imperative of academic advancement. In 2018, I initiated my applications for scholarships. However, it wasn’t until 2022, amidst a flourishing career, that I was awarded the esteemed Learn Africa Scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies in Political Science at the master’s level at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
The discovery of this scholarship opportunity came through the Facebook page “Scholarship Opportunities for Malawians,” a platform where Malawians share various scholarship opportunities. The application process for the Learn Africa Scholarship stood out for its simplicity and clarity compared to other opportunities. I completed the online application and submitted it within a day. Notably, this application process distinguished itself by not requiring an English certificate and omitting interviews as part of the selection process.
While at work one day, I received an email from Mujeres por Africa, indicating that I was among the shortlisted candidates recommended to the the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona for the scholarship. A few weeks later, I received a congratulatory message from Mujeres por Africa, confirming that I was the chosen candidate for the Learn Africa Scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts in Political Science at the Universitat Autonomy de Barcelona. The joy I experienced in that moment was immeasurable—a dream realized. I vividly recall excitedly sharing the news with my husband, a moment of pure elation.
Subsequently, the process of obtaining visas ensued, posing a unique challenge due to the absence of a Spanish embassy in Malawi. Consequently, I had to travel to Zimbabwe to process visas for myself and my family members. Securing an appointment proved to be a daunting task, but the representatives from Mujeres por Africa provided invaluable support throughout, facilitating the appointment process. Additionally, the representatives from Fundación Autónoma Solidaria UAB offered guidance on the necessary documents required for visa applications. Despite a delayed visa issuance that resulted in missing some initial classes, I found solace in the fact that both my family members and I were granted the necessary visas. Facilitating accommodation for my family was streamlined through the assistance of representatives from Fundación Autónoma Solidaria UAB who directed me to relevant links for reserving an apartment without the conventional work contract often demanded by property owners in Spain.
Having relocated with my children and husband to Spain, our assumption was that once the children commenced school, my husband would seek employment for both engagement and financial stability. However, we were disheartened to discover that dependents of family members are not permitted to work in Spain. This revelation was disappointing, as it seemed unjust for individuals supporting their spouses in pursuit of academic endeavors. Despite this setback, representatives from the foundation played a crucial role in ensuring my children were successfully enrolled in a nearby school. Since myself and my husband were not employed, there were no school fees required for the children.
Adapting to life in Terrasa, Barcelona was generally smooth, marked by the warmth of the local community. My children thoroughly appreciated the availability of free playgrounds in the residential areas during our time in Spain. Language, however, presented a notable challenge, as English was not widely spoken. The use of Google translators proved instrumental in facilitating communication with the locals. Commencing my studies a few weeks after the start of classes did not impede my progress, thanks to the unwavering support and flexibility demonstrated by the UAB lecturers. Notably, the lecturers prioritized student success, providing an environment conducive to learning. Their willingness to extend deadlines for assignments was a marked departure from the more rigid approach observed among lecturers in my home country Malawi.
Approximately two months into my coursework, I received an unexpected invitation for a job interview from one of the organizations in Malawi to which I had previously applied prior to receiving the scholarship. Recognizing that recruitment processes can often be protracted, I decided to proceed with the interviews. During the interview, conducted by a senior staff member of the organization, I was forthcoming about my situation, explaining that I was currently pursuing my master’s degree in a foreign country. I expressed my willingness to participate in the interview because I had hopes that the organization might be open to the idea of me working remotely for the initial months and transitioning to a full-time role upon my return after completing my coursework. However, I remained uncertain about whether the organization would consider such a request.
Two months elapsed without any communication from the organization. One morning, as I prepared to attend my classes, an email notification arrived from the Senior Staff of the Organization. The email’s content read:
Hope this email finds you well. It’s been a while since we last spoke at the interview.
We were very impressed by you and would like to explore a way to potentially engage you. Should you be still interested in the position, we would engage you as a part time consultant. Pending positive feedback from both parties, we would seek to transform the employment into a full time, in-person position in Lilongwe from April (provided you are back to Malawi by then). The program will run for 5 years.
Please let me know if you are potentially interested in an arrangement like this, or if things have changed and you have moved on. If you are interested, please also share with me your desired pay rate.
Receiving that email was an indescribable moment of pure happiness and boundless joy. It was the affirmation that all my hard work and dedication had paid off – I have not only achieved my master’s degree in political science but also secured a full-time position with Democracy International, a role that had patiently awaited my return after completing my postgraduate studies. This experience has taught me a valuable lesson: everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. What made this achievement even more extraordinary was the job offer waiting for me back home. The organization recognized my potential and the value of my academic pursuits. Their patience and willingness to accommodate my educational journey highlighted their commitment to fostering growth and development within their team. My story is a testament to the belief that with dedication, resilience, and a clear sense of purpose, one can achieve their goals and discover that the destination might be even more remarkable than they had imagined.
Since my husband could not work, he enrolled at the Public University of Navarra in Pamplona, spain to pursue postgraduate studies in International Business. He is currently in Navarra Spain, focusing on his studies. Meanwhile, I am back in Malawi with the children, actively contributing to the USAID funded Parliamentary Support Program with Democracy International. The Master of Arts in Political Science that I obtained aligns closely with the responsibilities of my current role. I am excited to embark on this new chapter in my career, armed with the knowledge and skills I have acquired during my postgraduate studies with support from Mujeres por Africa and Fundación Autónoma Solidaria UAB. It is a testament to the idea that sometimes, the best opportunities come to those who are willing to pursue their dreams relentlessly. My journey has reinforced my belief that the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth is a rewarding endeavour, one that can lead to unexpected and gratifying destinations.
Copyright © Mujeres por África 2024