Meeting the Challenges of Life Transitions: Scholar Perspectives

Whether a Scholar’s first day on a university campus, in a new job or as a budding entrepreneur, transitions between these major life milestones can be both daunting and exciting. Scholars share the challenges and triumphs of transitions from secondary to university education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Rising from the Ashes: Surviving University’s Freshman Year

Nimatu Ibrahim studies at the University of Ghana. She is a Scholar in the Program at Camfed.

Nimatu Ibrahim studies at the University of Ghana. She is a Scholar in the Program at Camfed

Nimatu in her hockey equipment

I call this story ‘a journey to self-discovery.’  It is about me, a young woman whom I see as a phoenix because she has risen from the ashes of her choices and is now soaring higher than she was before.

She was one of the best geography student in her senior high school and vibrant student leader. This young girl, now a woman, feeling very confident in her academic abilities. She thought everything would be alright as long as she understood her lecture notes.

But she saw the error in that perception when she got to the university and discovered that the way learning was structured didn’t work for her, especially in her political science course. She felt very inadequate, her grades suffering, and then became pregnant. She thought her world was coming to an end.

However, the unwavering support of her mother helped her bounce back from this tough period of her life. With her mother’s encouragement, she took things into her own hands when she returned to class after a difficult first year. She decided to deliberately identify herself with things that made her feel relevant, regardless of the grades she made at the end of the year.

With this resolve, she joined the University of Ghana Parliament House, where she debated on national issues and challenges facing students. She discovered programming and became an ambassador for Developers in Vogue, which teaches young women how to create websites and develop mobile apps. She gave more attention to her hockey team, of which she is now acting assistant captain. She attended a change makers congress, learned about goal setting, personal branding and how to use the Baobab platform. Through Baobab, she took a course on how to study effectively and took inspiration from what other Scholars were doing on the platform.

Nimatu with a friend at bilateral games at the University of Ibadan

Nimatu with a friend at bilateral games at the University of Ibadan.

These new engagements have given me a sense of direction as well as a natural inclination to pay more attention to me studies. Now, I know exactly where I am going and knowing that I cannot reach my goals with bad grades is enough motivation to study harder.

Building a Business, Doing Good

Azuure Celestina Ayatuure is a Scholar at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

Celestina with fellow Scholars from KNUST and Scholars in the Program at Camfed (University of Cape Coast).

Celestina with fellow Scholars from KNUST and Scholars in the Program at Camfed (University of Cape Coast).

Having an enterprise running while in school was a very great experience. However, it was demanding and required a lot of energy. Blending entrepreneurship with studies was not an easy task and therefore demanded sacrifices and self-denial for me to keep focus. Transitioning from school to work was a happy moment because I would have ample time to put my experience into practice and realize the vision I had for my business. I wanted my business to make money, but I also wanted it to play a role in changing my community.

I decided to battle teenage pregnancy and early marriages in my community through intensive reproductive health education and campaigns.

Celestina with young women who have benefitted from her efforts to end teenage pregnancy in her community.

Celestina with young women who have benefited from her efforts to end teenage pregnancy in her community.

As an emerging young leader and an entrepreneur also working to alleviate the overwhelming incidence of poverty among women and teenage mothers, I founded the Movement of Rural Entrepreneurial Women (MORE Women), an enterprise that organizes, trains and supplies raw basket weaving materials to rural women and teenage mothers. MORE Women aims at creating jobs for economically disadvantaged women and teenage mothers, fostering their economic independence.

The operation of the enterprise comes with some challenges and these includes inadequate finances to expand our operations and enroll more members. It also includes the absence of a production centre, therefore members resort to sitting under trees whiles weaving, posing a security threat to the women and causing discomfort, most especially in the rainy season. We also lack electricity which will enable us weave into the night to meet the high demand for our baskets. In addition, we face challenges on how to address the increasing numbers of new members yearning to be part of the movement.

Finding Footing in the Workplace

Maxwell Aladago is a Scholar at Ashesi University College.

Maxwell Aladago is a Scholar at Ashesi University College.

So far, the transition from college to work has been really good. Certainly, it has been a bit more difficult than I imagined five months ago. The nostalgia of being a student hits back occasionally and there are days I wish my employee card had all the awesome qualities of the student card. This nostalgia aside, I feel empowered, confident and ready for the world of work.

Although transitioning from school to working life has been quite seamless for me, I am not oblivious of the fact that it is a crucial step which has a critical role in the overall quality of one’s future working life. I want to share the two things which have been pivotal in my transitioning.

First, easy access to listening ears. It can be easy to underestimate the importance of experience in the choices we make. As a first-generation college student, one of the most important things, probably the most important thing I got from college was a host of great listeners. I relied heavily on the wisdom of my faculty and staff in thinking through complex decisions. I bothered them constantly about choosing between graduate school and industry immediately after graduation. Their advice and suggestions informed the projects I did and my decision to work with Goldman Sachs.

Maxwell Aladago is a Scholar at Ashesi University College.

Maxwell Aladago is a Scholar at Ashesi University College.

Besides having access to listening ears, the comprehensiveness of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program played an immense role in who I have become. By not having to worry about food, the cost of living and books, I had enough quality time to prepare myself for post-graduation life. One of such things involved exploiting the full benefits of Ashesi’s diverse culture by hanging out with international students. I also benefited a lot from Scholar’s development initiatives such as the summer internship fund which sponsored my first internship.  Through the internships and from interacting with my colleagues at Ashesi, I learned to engage meaningfully in professional conversations and adapt to new cultures. Goldman Sachs employed me largely because of these qualities, not my technical skills.

About the Scholars Program

The Mastercard Foundation believes that all young people, no matter their starting point in life, should have an equal chance to obtain a quality education and pursue their aspirations. We are providing education and leadership development for over 35,000 bright, young leaders with a deep personal commitment to changing the world around them and improving the lives of others. Through a network of universities and non-governmental organizations, the Scholars Program ensures that ensures that students whose academic talent and promise exceed their financial resources, are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to become the next generation of ethical leaders. These young people will create change that matters within their communities and will usher in a new era of inclusive prosperity in Africa and beyond.