Interview with Gifty Baaba Hewton: 2021 Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholar

Gifty Baaba Hewton is an alum of Ghana’s premier university, where she graduated in 2020 with a first class degree in Political Science with French. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in the United Kingdom (UK) at the University of Sheffield as a distinguished recipient of the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship. The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship at the University of Sheffield is a full tuition fee waiver and maintenance award targeted at international students from developing countries for a number of courses that are affiliated with the Sheffield Institute for International Development.

Who is Gifty Baaba Hewton? 

I’m a Ghanaian, who had until recently lived her entire life in Ghana. I’m currently in the UK pursuing my master’s degree in International Relations. 


Had it always been your intention to study abroad? 

It was one of those fantasies I had, but it was not until 2 years ago I decided to focus more seriously on actualizing my dream of studying abroad.


Why did you choose to study in the UK and not any other country? 

Access to funding and quality education were the 2 main things I was looking out for when I began the school search. Unfortunately, by the time I begun the process, the window period for funding in the USA was closed, so that was a no go area for me. I did apply to schools in Canada, and some countries in Asia, but I found the application process to be very seamless in the UK and it greatly helped that I eventually got a full tuition scholarship there. 


Was the University of Sheffield the only school in the UK you applied for?

I actually applied to ~9 or 10 universities because I was targeting the Commonwealth and Chevening Scholarships, which ended up not working in my favor.


Did you purposely apply to Sheffield University because of the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship opportunity? 

The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship is not a scholarship you can apply to directly, but rather, get nominated for. At the time I applied to Sheffield, it was mainly for my Chevening Scholarship application, but I guess God had a different plan.


Were you surprised when you found out you had been nominated for the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship?

I wouldn’t say I was surprised because I trusted God to come through for me, but after experiencing a couple of scholarship application rejections, and waiting for about 6 months to find out I had been shortlisted for this scholarship was really an interesting experience.


What did the process entail after being nominated for the scholarship?

A link was sent where you can then apply for the scholarship by submitting a personal statement and responding to a few questions. There was no interview for the scholarship and the process was very seamless.

Did you encounter any difficulties during your study abroad application process? 

Surprisingly, I didn’t! Like I stated previously, the UK application process is very straight - forward and also not as laborious as people make it seem to be. It also could be that because I was a past CAMFED scholar and had access to training and mentorship on these types of opportunities, the process was very easy once I read and understood all the requirements needed to apply to a school.  


Did you have to take any exams like the Toefl as part of your application?

I didn’t. 


How would you describe your past experience in playing a role in your current success as a scholarship recipient?

Frankly speaking, my experience in Ghana contributed greatly to my current success. From the training and mentorship I received from Mastercard as a Camfed Scholar to counsel from my undergraduate lecturers, etc, I believe it has all played a significant role to where I am today. The journey has not always been smooth or easy, but I guess that also contributes to creating a beautiful story.  


Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in the UK?

I didn’t! Aside from the food and the system in the UK functioning properly and being in place, I still feel very much at home.  


How would you describe your experience living and studying in the UK as a scholarship recipient? 

It’s been pretty normal, but exciting to have a change of environment for the first time. It has also been very fulfilling to have been able to set a goal and achieve it within a short time. This has been an experience of a lifetime.’


Did you have any expectations about the UK prior to moving?

I expected systems to be functioning properly and so far, my expectations have been met. 

Was there anything you heard about the UK that you later found out not to be true once you settled in? 

Before entering the UK, I heard it would be challenging to get most African food commodities, but this is not the case here. There are several intercontinental stores due to the culturally diverse nature of the UK.


What advice would you give to an international student applying to the University of Sheffield in hopes of being a recipient of the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship?

I recommend the University of Sheffield 100% because it is  a first class institution. The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship at the University of Sheffield is not something you can apply to directly so it’s really about praying and  trusting in God, believing in yourself and hoping for the best outcome at the end of the day. 


Aside of the full tuition fee waiver, the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Scholarship at University of Sheffield also provides a maintenance for University accommodation and a monthly stipend. A prospective nominee must hold an offer by 6 May, 2022 for one of the eligible courses at the Sheffield Institute for International Development to be considered for nomination amongst other scholarship requirements.