Interview with Sharon Boaduwaa Boadu: 2022 Mo Ibrahim Scholar
Sharon Boadu is a Ghanaian scholar who is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Development Policy and Politics at the University of Birmingham (UoB), under the auspices of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF). The Mo Ibrahim Foundation in partnership with the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham (UOB) have provided the opportunity for one eligible African to pursue a Master of Science degree each year at UOB, and an internship with the Ibrahim Foundation on a full tuition fee scholarship among other benefits since 2012.
Who is Sharon?
I’m a Ghanaian who loves music, enjoys participating in extracurricular activities, runs my own podcast and currently works as a host of a campus radio show. I come from a family of six, lived and studied in Kumasi my whole life, until recently, where I’m currently based in Birmingham.
At what point in your life did you want to study abroad?
It’s been my dream to study abroad as an international student. My father worked in the space of education and always informed my siblings and I about the opportunities that existed from studying abroad, which urged me to excel in all areas of life so I could pursue this dream ‘without breaking the bank.’
Was the UK your prime destination when it came to studying abroad?
I was particularly interested in studying in Germany, Canada, or Hungary. Interestingly, the UK was not among the list of countries that I was looking into when it came to studying abroad.
How did you hear about the Mo Ibrahim Scholarship?
I had attended a fully funded conference in Egypt (World Youth Forum) last year, and the experience left me wanting to be a part of more of such engaging opportunities. After the conference, I began searching online for opportunities available and it was there I first became aware of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. I delved deeper and realized the foundation provided scholarship opportunities for Africans. I had actually gotten rejected from the first conference application I made with the foundation, but decided I wasn’t going to give up and explored the other opportunities available at MIF.
I’m aware MIF provides other graduate level scholarships at different institutions in the UK. What was it about the MSc scholarship in Birmingham that made you apply?
I strongly felt this particular scholarship opportunity was written for me after reading about the criteria, the eligibility and what the scholarship program entailed, and at the moment, I knew I had to apply. With the other scholarship opportunities MIF offered, I didn’t feel I met the eligibility criteria.
Was this the only scholarship you applied for?
It was the first scholarship I applied for, but I also applied for the DAAD Scholarship.
What was your scholarship application timeline?
I actually applied 2 days before the scholarship deadline. It actually took months from when I was first notified I was shortlisted for the interview stage to finding out I was selected as the scholarship recipient.
How did the interview go?
I interviewed with 2 individuals and I felt it went well. I had 15 minutes to make a pitch on my topic of research after which I was questioned on it.
Did you have any expectations prior to your arrival in the UK?
Prior to my arrival, I felt and still feel the environment in Ghana was/is a bit stagnant to enable me live out my best life and had assumed life would be so much easier in the UK. In a nutshell, I thought the UK was going to be the answer to all of my problems. However, I feel like my expectations of what life would be in the UK was a bit exaggerated.
How has your experience in the UK been so far?
To be honest, my experience has been mixed. On one hand it has been spectacular, fun, amazing and a dream come true. Prior to my arrival, I had done a lot of research, including reading your blog and speaking to a past MIF scholarship recipient and even watched YouTube videos on things I could expect. It was definitely a surreal experience to eventually arrive and experience for myself what I had seen online and heard of about the UK.
Also, I've realized there are a plethora of opportunities that exists for anyone who puts in the work, which makes me happy and excited about the future because I’m now in an environment where my progress in life is not based on who I know, but rather, the effort I put into my goals.
On the flip side, making friends has not been as easy as I expected and that was a struggle for me during my first few months.
What will you say has been some of the challenges/culture shock you've experienced upon arrival in the UK?
I feel the workload can get a bit overwhelming. I had heard education abroad was much easier than in Ghana, which I’ve found out not to be entirely true. At the beginning, it did get a bit confusing adjusting to a new educational structure but once I got a grasp of it, I was in a much better academic situation.
Also, getting accommodation was not as seamless as I thought it would be and I was actually surprised about how small, but expensive the apartments were.
What do you like about your university?
I love the fact that University of Birmingham provides so much opportunities for students to engage in.
As a recipient of this prestigious scholarship, you’ll probably not know this, but what do you think gave you the competitive edge over the other applicants?
It’s difficult to say because I do not know what the other candidates presented in their application, but I like to think the plethora of extra curricular activities I had engaged in over the years, some of which also connected with the scholarship program requirements, is probably what gave me the advantage over others.
Has this opportunity changed you in any way?
I’m in the process of evolving, and I feel more independent and responsible these days.
How do you intend to utilize this opportunity to your best advantage?
I’m taking advantage of everything and utilizing all resources to the best of my abilities.
What advice will you give anyone interested in studying abroad?
That’s a tough one but, I’ll say, put in your best application and pray about it.
In addition to the full tuition fee scholarship, this scholarship opportunity provides the recipient an air fare to and from the United Kingdom and visa, a monthly stipend of £950 for 18 months, an arrival allowance of £950, and a six months internship with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. For more information on this opportunity, click here.