Junior Cimwang Yav would not have thought himself a winner of a prestigious scholarship this time last year. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and dedicated ASA scholarship follower shares his experience on winning a Masters scholarship to Germany in this interview.
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Please tell us how you learnt about this scholarship
I got an email from AfterschoolAfrica last year August just the way I got it today. In fact, let me inform you that the scholarship that I won is amongst the set of scholarships you forwarded today. The scholarship is the Civil Society Leadership Awards.
The award is usually given to pursue a Master’s research in any Host university in the US, UK and other European countries. In my case, I’ve been awarded a scholarship to study for 2 years and I chose a university in Germany.
What’s the name of the university that you finally got to choose?
Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. it’s actually the only University in the German-speaking zone in Germany.
So you will be learning to speak the German language then?
Yes. I will be learning the German language at the Institute for a month. I will also be going to Georgia for a Pre-academic summer training.
How do you feel about winning this scholarship?
I feel very proud because it was very tough and highly competitive. I had to surmount a lot of challenges. At every step of the way, I had to face great professors who came from prestigious universities like Cambridge University and other universities in France, UK, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary and the Netherlands. I travelled to Nairobi, Kenya at the second stage of the process. I was interviewed by highly-place individuals, I also had to write essays and I got reviewed by an international committee before I was able to get a scholarship. I applied to two schools and got accepted by both of them but I had to choose one offer and decline the other.
So it definitely feels great winning this scholarship.
But what were your exact thoughts while you applied for this scholarship? Did you think you would get it?
I didn’t think I would get this scholarship. I simply did my best to be among the selected candidates because I knew there would be heavy competitors. Like a race where even though you are not the strongest, you still have to do everything you can to win.
Were you scared of all the competition?
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t scared at first but the message the authorities kept passing didn’t make me feel like I was going to win. At each stage they kept telling us “you are not confirmed yet”. Imagine, we started the selection process in August 2015 yet it was only in June this year that I got firm confirmation of my selection to receive this scholarship. That was almost a year of uncertainties.
The most difficult stage was applying to be accepted by the Host Universities. They had a way of assessing candidates which included research into the background of the recipients especially those coming from developing countries. They were very rigorous with the process. They had too many questions. I had to do interviews with the presidents of many universities. It wasn’t that easy.
So what was it about you that made you win this scholarship?
I tried to be particular and stand out in anything I was saying or doing. I didn’t want to be ordinary with the crowd so at each stage, I always tried to say something special, something that would attract attention and convince them. The selection process was basically about leadership, development, past achievements and the likes. So I walked along those lines to give the officials what they were looking for in a scholarship recipient.
Did you have to submit any documents?
Yes. A lot of them. I had to submit official documents like my transcript and all the diplomas (school certificates). I also had to undertake TOEFL and I passed the average mark. From August to June, we went through many stages and presented these documents at different times. I also had to submit references from university professors and former employers. It wasn’t so easy because in these recommendation letters, the professors were to rate me and send the letters directly to the schools. Of course I was scared because I didn’t know what they said about me (laughs). If you think too much about yourself, those letters can bring you down.
Were you asked to present past works like your research papers?
Yes, especially after the second stage of the selection process in Nairobi. Everyone of us from the eligible countries in Africa were gathered in Nairobi for an interview with the scholarship officials. Of course the cost of our travel and room tickets were taken care of by the scholarship organization.
How will studying at a foreign university help you achieve your goals?
I will be achieving a lot because first of all, I’m going to be undertaking immigration studies. I will be studying about people leaving their homes and going to Europe. So being in Europe myself will enable me directly be involved with the experience of other people. Also, my host university will be assisting me by equipping me with scientific tools so that I can form my researches properly.
After the scholarship programme, would you be returning to your home country?
Yes I would certainly be returning to DRCongo. It’s part of the requirements of the scholarship and I’m in favour of it because there are many opportunities in my country that I can influence change in and I’ll finally be able to become a notable personality in my country.
What advice or encouragement would you like to give to readers?
I would like to tell youths from developing countries that there are many opportunities out there. Some people think that they can’t get these scholarships so they never try. That’s not a good way of looking at things. There are very serious organizations such as the Open Society foundation, the Germany Academic exchange and many others awarding scholarships to people from developing nations.
If you are committed in searching for these scholarships, you may get a scholarship but you have to be hopeful, diligent and dedicated. You may not even succeed the first time you try but keep on trying and very soon, you are going to find a scholarship that perfectly fits your goals and desires.
Also, people should learn to find these scholarships sites like AfterschoolAfrica. Many people don’t know that sites like this exist so they end up paying agencies to get information on scholarships that are given freely here!
When applying for these scholarships it is also important that you look very carefully at the requirements of the scholarship. This is actually the first thing to do. If you fit the requirements, then apply because you are likely to get the scholarship instead of applying for multiple scholarships for the sake of applying and getting none at the end. I only applied once for a scholarship and I got it because I was sure that I had leverage.
So what has your experience been so far with AfterschoolAfrica?
There are other websites like AfterschoolAfrica but this is where I get all the information on scholarship. The website is a very helpful website. People can get all sorts of relevant information that can guide them in getting a very good scholarship.
Any last words?
What AfterschoolAfrica is doing is very interesting and helpful. Please keep on assisting the youths from developing countries because it’s thanks to organizations such as yours that people can develop themselves and get opportunities to become better versions of who they need to be. I never imagined that I could get such a scholarship but because I trusted your organisation and kept on receiving information and searching for what can help me, I am now a grantee about to travel to two countries Georgia and Germany.