We watch college movies all the time and in these movies, we see the actors portray longing to receive acceptance letters from certain schools. The schools of their dreams, the schools that their parents have been talking about since they were little. Maybe if you are reading this and you are exposed and have high aspirations, may be you were once in those actors shoes, waiting for an acceptance letter from Oxford.
If you are like me, you probably rolled your eyes at the end of the last sentence, I mean seriously?! Who gets accepted to Oxford? When was the last time, someone in your circle of friends ran to your house excitedly shouting, “I GOT IN! I GOT IN! I GOT IN! I Got into OXFORD!!” Okay, maybe not your circle of friends… Maybe your friend’s circle of friends? Or how about your friend’s friend’s friends? May be then.
Do you now get it? I mean don’t get me wrong, there are probably Ugandans who have had the amazing opportunity of going to a top-tier university, but how many are they? Do you think it is because we do not dream? Or do we dream but have no access?
11 months ago, I started thinking about going back to school. My dad had dreamed about me continuing my education but I was never that interested in it. So I finally made the conscious decision to begin actively looking for placement in a master’s program of my choice. Preferably one that offered full scholarships! So here is the thing, in my search, top-tier universities were not in my line of site, why? Because they are for “those” people. Other people. I never saw myself as “one of those people”. And no, it is not an esteem issue, I just never saw myself in that light.
I was looking for a computer engineering course, I searched and found a few, however, guess what – their websites were extremely not user friendly. Confused and frustrated, I left a couple of the university websites. So I changed my search criteria, I started looking at universities offering a master’s in IT. Again, I found a few, this time I found one, simple interface, the information was precise to the point and the application process even simpler.
About 2 weeks later, I got an eMail from the admissions officer, unfortunately, that was the time my dad had just passed away, and there was no way I was going to travel away from my family. I wrote back to them thanking them for considering me but informing them about my situation and letting them know i would not be able to make it. They changed everything, gave me the option of choosing an interview date as well as doing the interview on Skype.
Fast forward 7 months, I was preparing to leave home, packing and making the necessary announcements about leaving, that is when I was informed that the school that had accepted my application was a top-tier university. But you see, even then, I never truly grasped what that meant because for me, top-tier meant what I had seen on television…
My television theory could not have prepared me for what I experienced; from stepping off that elevator on day one, going through orientation month, listening to the different guest speakers, going to my different classes, having discussions with my friends, to student movie nights, staying up late with other classmates because you need to beat the midnight deadline! No, Television and Movies do not show you that!
Opps! There I forgot to mention the small tiny factor that makes most of us Ugandan’s shy away from pursuing a master’s education – Fees. I looked at the fees and thought to myself, who on earth am I kidding?! Don’t get me wrong, I know how to use Google, but nothing was panning out!
Guess what happened? As I was busy looking for scholarships, the university was also doing the same for me. Literally!! One of the professors, went out of his way to look for and found the scholarships. To this date, I am still baffled by that level of commitment to students! Still on commitment to students, finding accommodation was a bit of a trick, but again, the university staff and faculty were concerned about us! I remember being stopped in the hallway by one of the instructors, who asked me, whether I had found a house yet, where I had looked, giving me ideas and options… Who does that?
Answer: People who care and are invested in making sure I leave changed. People who are committed to ensuring that the environment around me is conducive to that change.
These people partnered with an African government to bring top-tier university education to Africa. Taking out Air fares, visa fees, the complications of developed world cost of living… These people are invested in seeing Africans rise up and see the potential that is both within them and around them.
Those people are Carnegie Mellon University!
They are looking to recruit brilliant minds, are you one of them?