Edinburgh Global

Hear from the Identities in Transition Participants

Hear from the Identities in Transition Project Researchers as they share their experiences as part of the Mastercard Foundation programme of participants and how they came to join the Identities in Transition research project. Find out more about the Identities in Transition project here. 

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Jesse Jedidia

Third-year undergraduate Electronics and Electrical Engineering

What was your journey like in joining the MCF Scholars Programme?

After graduating from high school in Kenya, I think for me, I felt like there was a bit more to education than just being in the classroom space, and for that reason, I decided I wasn't going to join university immediately, so I ended up going to African Leadership Academy instead.

It's a leadership school in South Africa, which is centred around building leadership skills and improving systems. You know, like having that positive impact within the spaces that I'm in. I heard about the Mastercard Foundation while in my second year of the Leadership Academy. I liked that beyond being a financial support scheme, the programme also championed leadership and the need for its scholars to effect of positive impact in continental Africa, something which, evidently, aligned with my interests.

What interested you most in taking part in a project like this one?

I’ve been lucky to have a little bit of international travel experience. Generally, where I come from, people don’t often travel internationally, but I've been lucky to have that opportunity and I think right from the beginning I noticed there are some challenges when it comes to integrating into the destination - for example flying from Kenya to South Africa. There were some challenges integrating into the South African community and then once you integrate into that, then there's also time when you go back home and notice also there was some challenges reintegrating back into your home space. So, it becomes a little bit of a challenge on both ends.

When I heard that this project was centred around that  - around exploring the challenges that come with moving from Continental Africa to the Global North for educational purposes and the challenges that come from moving from the Global North back to your home country for the positive impact that you're hoping to achieve I thought to myself that this was a space where I could use my experience to inform the kind of policy or decisions that are going be put in place and at the same time, get to hear of other people’s experiences.

What do you feel you gained from this experience so far?

There’s an appreciation for the complexity of the problem that we’re seeking to address. Just seeing all the different moving parts like this, the photo voice going on, there’s the two teams here in Edinburgh doing their own research. There are two teams in UBC doing their own research. All these different moving parts are going to get to a point where everything makes sense, and we’ll have our eventual guidebook.

I also think the diversity of the voices. We sit down for two hours at a time to discuss both our experiences and reflections of the material. So, I think it’s been very enriching and fulfilling just being in such a space and getting to hear what other people made of that material and what experiences other people have been having, especially with their own transition.

What do you look forward to the most about visiting your cohorts at UBC?

This project has been running for almost two years with the teams across different campuses across different continents, and these are people never met in person before. I think there’s

a lot of excitement about getting to eventually put a face to the name that you've been seeing or just getting to meet people in person and say, OK, these are the people we have been collaborating with. Additionally, it's going an entire week of continued conversation around such an important issue. That's something that I'm looking forward to.

What is one outcome you hope this project has on higher education institutions and the resources and support that they provide to students from abroad?

I think the whole point of international education, at least for me, has been always the idea where education serves as a benchmark opportunity where you have people traveling from different countries and we get to understand the different systems that these countries have in place. And then from there you're able to sort of pick and identify what are some of these that we could replicate back home to improve the systems back home.

It could be like observing the economic system, observing the social system, observing the academic system itself and then you can cherry pick. I think that's what the crux of the sort of like the most important aspect of international education, at least for me. But I think with that is always the challenge that comes with the, with the transition. For example, like you hope that I'm going to be able to get into the UK and focus on, for example, the engineering system, like what's the engineering system over there?

Like, but then by the time you get there, then this this challenge of how do I fit into that social space? How do I fit into that economic space and that sort of takes your vision away and your focus away from the thing that you came for, learning, engineering and at the same time you hope that once I've been able to learn all these things from the UK, then I'm able to pick this and take them back home. But by the time you get back home, you must also find ways to reintegrate back into your home space before you begin thinking about how to go about implementing this.

It's my hope is that by the time that we're done with this project it it's going to sort of help institutions both in the Global North and back in Africa to identify ways in which they can help the scholars or their ambassadors they're sending to integrate faster into their destination countries.

Jesse Jedidia
woman smiling

Josephine Chikwana

MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation


What was your journey like in joining the MCF Scholars Programme?

I am a Malawian, and how I came to be an MCF scholar is very interesting. I feel like I it's more like I stumbled in it. I was interested in studying an MSC in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and was interested in changing the world through entrepreneurship and I'm still interested in it. When I came across the Mastercard Foundation and the scholarship, I think it was more like it came at the right moment because I was frustrated looking for ways to advance my entrepreneurial training skills and I just couldn't find any avenues and then boom, that one popped up for me.

My background is more in education, entrepreneurship and education, and that was my motive and that's still my motive to bridge the two. My main goal was to get the skills that the Global North teaches. I wanted to tap into those skills and, you know, transfer them back into the Malawian context.

What interested you most in taking part in a project like this one?

I'm all about change and I think this project puts you at the heart of understanding how the Global North and African contexts are completely different and avoiding that position where I'm trying to make us at the same level but trying to see it from both sides. I think this project puts you at the place to understand different contexts and get that to share the same picture between different context and different people without making one feel like a minority, without making one feel like you're not getting the best out of a situation.

What's really important is to bridging gaps, find a way of transferring these skills in an effective way.

What do you feel you gained from this experience so far?

I think the best thing I've gained the most is understanding that even in Africa, there's so many different cultures and different perceptions of the same thing, so as much as we've always thought of it as just Global North and Africa, I think generally getting to understand that diversity can happen even in a small family or in a small community.

That's the thing I've learned the most to understand diversity in all these different contexts in the small scale, in the large scale and still understanding that they're pretty much the same. It's just sometimes the different institutions or different logics will be less tense when it comes to like small scale, but in a in a big scale like this one, they're the same. But I think just generally being understanding of my environment, it's brought a lot of self-awareness, a lot of reflection into my understanding things.

What do you look forward to the most about visiting your cohorts at UBC?

I think just seeing things from a different perception, seeing how they've worked throughout the whole project. I mean for the for them the project has been less structured. It's been more of a mentorship programme that's self-formed and then for Edinburgh it's been different. So, I think that alone is going to be an exciting opportunity to understand how they've tackled it. I think it's learning from them and understanding what it's like to be at UBC because you know, I'm sure it's going to be different from University of Edinburgh.

What is one outcome you hope this project has on higher education institutions and the resources and support that they provide to students from abroad?

Inclusivity, inclusive in all aspects. When it comes to disability, when it comes to race, when it comes to all that, I think such a project is just the first step. It's like one of the first steps to making a bigger change and a bigger impact in higher education institutions.

I think then this project can be adapted in so many different settings - understanding that because differences in culture, this diversity that we're bringing into it and merging in this project can probably be adapted to so many different settings. It's a workable solution, can really help bring in a sense of belonging and a sense of understanding and support to students.

man crossing arms and smiling

Hammed Kayode Alabi

MS Africa and International Development

What was your journey like in joining the MCF Scholars Programme?

I was born in a place called Makoko, in Nigeria. I lost my mom when I was seven and my dad soon after became unemployed. I stayed out-of-school for a whole academic term with my brother staying out of school for a school for a whole academic session. I also hawked in the street, and it brought me closer to the problems in my community. I saw children who were not in school. I saw those whose condition were worse than mine and I knew right there I had to do something and that was what inspired my journey into education because of my own experience.

I taught at a basic rural school, helping children who share similar circumstances as mine, to help them change their circumstances and started a non-profit that helps children in rural and underserved communities create solutions to their own problems, and develop the key 21st century skills needed to integrate into the workforce and the future of work. Through this, they are able to get good job, change their circumstances, transform their communities, just like I did.

I believe that with access to skills, education and opportunities, children can change their circumstances and that is what led me to the Mastercard Foundation.

I wanted to build my research skills, expand my network, and deepened my knowledge about the Africa continent. More so, I was curious about how we can create social good sustainably and raise significant resources to drive youth and educational change on the continent and that was what inspired me to apply for the Africa and International Development programme through the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship. I studied through the programme and during that process, I worked on a Mastercard Foundation (MCF) funded Project Foundation for All (FFA). A blended-bridging educational programmes that prepared refugee learners in Uganda for higher education.

During this period, I co-created a mentoring programme with other 4 MCF scholars and connected 40 MCF scholars from 3 different learning institutions University of Edinburgh, Makerere University and American University of Beirut to prepare the refugee learners for scholarship opportunities, Higher Education entry exams and support them with their academics. I also worked on the Monitoring and Evaluation of the project and went ahead to do my placement with the foundation and wrote a 15000 words dissertation exploring the experiences of refugees in accessing higher education. I became grounded in the area and that led to my current work with Refugee Education UK where I support refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Europe, Asia and other regions across the world. I connect them with mentors who provide educational support such as English, Maths once in every week.

To read more about Hammed’s non-profit – read here.

What interested you most in taking part in a project like this one?

First and foremost, as an African student, coming from Nigeria to the UK to study, it forced me to start all over again. Finding my journey, finding who I am again and not losing my confidence. I was a very confident person coming into the UK and it was hard to stay confident, but I was supported by the mentoring and the community I had access to.

I’m interested in how identity shapes transition, how identity affects transition as well and how identity could be also an opportunity to transition. It's not just about looking at the problem, but also the opportunity for learning in that process and the role of support systems, the role of mentors, the role of community in shaping identity.

I'm really interested in the concept of home and what does home means for African students living faraway from home?  So, I am curious to learn about how we can create a space for international students to explore there being in a place that is naturally not their home? You know, how do we create a home far away from home?

What do you feel you gained from this experience so far?

The reflection, the ability to reflect on my own position, on my own journey studying in Edinburgh, on my own worries, my fears. The vulnerability that comes with it and just sharing with other people who share similar experiences is so relieving. It is a therapy for me. It is the recognition of my identity. That I feel you and I hear you. I have learned about building community through this process and opportunity to find myself, to reflect upon my journey.

What do you look forward to the most about visiting your cohorts at UBC?

This project and the meeting. The connections with other people, finding out what they think as well. So just carefully listening and learning from them. I'm interested to step back and just watch people, learn from them. And not just listening to people but listening to yourself as well and constantly just having conversation with yourself. To solve an issue, to be deeply rooted in them we need to have a very strong sense of self awareness and self-criticality.

The networks as well, building that network and meeting others like you. I’m looking forward to meeting the research team as well who are working on the same project in UBC.

What is one outcome you hope this project has on higher education institutions and the resources and support that they provide to students from abroad?

I think the sense of recognition. I think many times African students come to Global North Institutions without getting any recognition of the challenges that they are facing transitioning. It's not easy for them. Most time we say they are resilient because they have had it hard, and they can overcome anything. I think we should move beyond that and rather than call people resilient, we should ask what they are really going through and offer them support.

We do not even have to solve the problems. All we need is for them to hear in affirmation that “we recognise the challenges; we recognise your problem, and we will create a space for you to share. I feel like that is what this project has been all about and have been doing right. The community of African scholars and students coming together to share their experiences and relieving themselves of what is going on-on the inside. I am looking forward to systemic change that this project will lead to in terms of recognising African students’ identity, in terms of providing support systems that enable them to thrive in education and in transitioning to the UK. I am looking forward to that change happening within the university and within our educational institutions.