A Story of Not Giving Up: Scholarship Winner shares his journey to finally beating the odds
Yusuf Karu has come a long way but is still moving. An indigene of Gombe state in Nigeria, Yusuf’s story is one of disappointments, perseverance and the overcoming of obstacles to become an eventual winner of a scholarship. Read his story.
What is the name of the scholarship?
It’s the Scholarship for Christian Young People. It’s actually handled by Tempus Public Foundation here in Hungary, Budapest precisely.
What school are you currently taking this scholarship in?
I had the option of selecting 2 courses from 2 schools in Hungary. So my first choice was Pharmacy from the University of Debrecen but I couldn’t gain their admission. Instead I got my second choice which is Nursing from the University of Pécs.
How long is the Program at the University?
It’s an undergraduate scholarship for 4 years. I left home precisely on the 4th of September 2017.
Do you have to undertake 1 year Hungarian Language learning?
No it’s actually an English program. They have 2 options in the school. They have the English learning program and the Hungarian learning program for international students. They however do teach us a little bit of Hungarian for learning sake and also for hospital practice because when we go to their hospitals, we often see Hungarian people, patients and staff. So it’s generally necessary to learn to speak the language but the course is an English program.
So why did you select Hungary?
To be sincere, I did not have Hungary in mind. What I had was a dream to experience Europe. It’s a place I have seen on TV. I wanted to experience it in real life. I have liked their lifestyle, their organization and the way the people here approach things in life. They are of a higher mindset. So I was on the lookout for scholarships that would enable me study in Europe. Most times their application did not favour me and other times one would have to pay a huge amount in application fees; or they will request for professional exams like TOEFL or IELTS.
However this scholarship did not require all that –no application fees or English proficiency exams – as long as your WAEC certificate carries a good score in the English language. There are some universities here that still require the toefl though.
How many scholarships did you apply for before getting your present scholarship?
I think they were two. I began the process of applying for scholarships in 2015. I got information for the first one through a friend that called my dad during the last dispensation. I can’t remember the name of the scholarship. The scholarship entailed students getting sponsored by the Nigerian government to study maritime courses in maritime schools in maybe Romania or England, after which they would return to work in the maritime industry. I didn’t formally apply because all that was required then was to submit my documents and phone number and wait for an interview call. There was no website or anything. We did the interview anyway and then we were told they’ll get back to us but they did not (laughs).
The second attempt was for a school in Canada where I had to meet an agent but the agent told me I had to bring an application fee of Fifty thousand. I made the agent understand that if I had the money to apply and sponsor myself abroad, I wouldn’t be going through the stress of looking for a scholarship.
How did you get to know about the third (present) scholarship?
Well, in 2015 after I had lost those scholarships, an aunt of mine who I think is subscribed to receive information from After School Africa, sent a scholarship link to me. She told me that she knows After School Africa that they actually publicise a lot of scholarships and opportunities generally. Immediately she gave me that link, I decided to subscribe myself to After School Africa to observe notices that were coming in. I never knew that a year later in 2016, the Website was going to be very helpful. Immediately the scholarship came in, I applied for it because it seemed like the right scholarship for me.
Was it an easy process to apply for this scholarship?
To be honest, it wasn’t really stressful. Only thing was that I had lost some confidence and had begun thinking maybe I should just give up on this ‘fantasy’ of studying in Europe and find a higher education in Nigeria. What affected me most was that loss of confidence so much so that while applying I didn’t tell any of my family members except my aunt and two of my friends who were instrumental in my application process. I couldn’t handle any further discouragement so I decided to go through the process on my own and luckily everything worked out.
How did you then feel winning this scholarship?
Sincerely it’s a feeling I cannot really describe. Okay, I had mixed feelings. A part of me was very happy, a part of me was also very surprised and another part of me could not believe it. Even when I went for the visa interview and had got the visa, I was thinking all the way that it was possible something would happen and take this opportunity from me. Even when I boarded the plane and we arrived at Turkey (because it was from Nigeria to Turkey, then Turkey to Budapest, Hungary), I still could not get too excited in case something happens and the flight gets cancelled and then we’re back to Nigeria. It wasn’t until I started attending lectures few weeks in that I completely believed I had won a scholarship.
Truth is that I have had some academic delays. I got admission into a state university in Nigeria, Gombe State University. I started in 2011 but with the ASUU strike and departmental strikes, there were so many breaks that I had to pull out of the school against my family’s wish. I was frustrated with all the unnecessary delays and became depressed. I had more step-downs and failed courses when I tried to start again. At this point, my family’s concern was that I should at least finish my university education, any university education; it wasn’t any more about ‘wow! My child has gained admission!’ All that happiness and euphoria that came with me being in a higher education was lost. I felt that and I myself had lost hope in Me.
So when this scholarship came it was understandably hard to believe.
So what would you say helped you win this scholarship?
I really wanted to travel out of the country to continue my study. There were many nights where I would dream about it. With my friends, I would jokingly mention it and we would all laugh but I meant it because that was all I wanted.
Im not even sure it was about my application because I submitted my application 8 minutes before the deadline. I got a mail from After School Africa on the 12th of June that 4 days later was the deadline. I had to get my transcript from my school and get my medical certificate ready within 4 days and eight minutes before the closure, I submitted my application. Winning this scholarship is a bit of destiny I must say.
What were those details in your Motivation Letter that made you scale through?
I’ve always dreamt of helping people and I have know that in whatever sphere of life I’m in and whatever university I finish from, my end goal would be to help people with aids, foundations, or organizations whatever. Where I come from in the northern part of Nigeria actually requires much of these aids because there is suffering in the land. I see how difficult it is to access healthcare and the government is not doing much in that area. I made the scholarship officials understand that the scholarship would enable me reach this goal.
Secondly, I think Europe is quite different from Africa. Apart from the obvious which is skin colour, their approach to life is different. I want to learn from them so that I can help my people back home.
What were the documents that were required of you?
I had to get a visa and then submit my WAEC Certificate, secondary school transcript, birth certificate, international passport, and a recommendation letter that confirms that I am a Christian from a church head. I had to get this recommendation letter from a catholic priest even though I’m not catholic.
How will studying in Hungary help reach your goals?
The quality of education is very different and practical. Here, no one jokes with your education and they make sure every student participates in practical work. It is very immersive and I’ve learnt so much in very little time.
Also, I’m being exposed to so many people and things while studying here. I’ve been invited to a conference where the President of Hungary was and I was able to meet him. I’ve also met different other international dignitaries. I know where to go and who to meet in Hungary now if I desire amenities for my community because of this scholarship even though the language is almost a barrier.
Meaning you will return to Nigeria after studies?
I’ve told some people that I don’t really see myself remaining in Europe after studies and no one believes me. Hungary is quite boring even though I’m in one of the cities that has the highest number of Nigerians. I would rather return and face a community that needs me, where I can put these newly-acquired skills to action. I already know discouragement very well so I know nothing can affect me. However, I don’t know what life has in store for me. If I get a job here, it’s also fine but I would definitely want to focus my energy on conditions in Nigeria.
How do you hope to achieve this?
Definitely, I will be opening an organization that would focus on health of the citizens; a non-governmental/non-profit organization more preferably. The capital might not be there immediately so if it means going into business and then using the profits of the business to provide healthcare for the rural communities, so be it.
Secondly, I have always had the mind to open a school because to shape the minds of young people, a school comes in handy. I feel there is a lot of potential in the youths of Nigeria that what is needed is direction.
Let’s talk about your background
I grew up in different parts of the country. I was born in Bauchi state where my dad worked as a teacher in one of the colleges. During this period, Gombe state was created out of Bauchi state and we happened to fall under Gombe state.
At age 6, my dad was transferred to Kaduna state which was where I had my secondary school education. Later on, my dad was transferred again to Gombe state and I was left alone in Kaduna. My university education however made me come back to Gombe state. Growing up was a tour of different states.
Does your family approve of this scholarship, the distance and all?
In 2015, the first two scholarships were ideas that came from family so the thought of me going far did not really trouble them, in fact, my dad also schooled in one of the universities abroad. What they were not at peace with was that I had grown a bit older so they thought I should be wiser with my decisions. They gave me a lot of advice before leaving and presently, still lookout for other opportunities for me. I know they’re comfortable with it now and are very happy with me.
What advice will you give to young Africans who are searching for scholarships?
I think they should learn to have an extra heart that would help them withstand disappointments while applying for these scholarships and for many phases of life. I never imagined that 7 years after secondary school education, I would still be in the university. By now I should have been working like my mates. By no means am I saying you should be a pessimist. But for every opportunity you chase after, be hopeful about it, have faith and also know that disappointments don’t mean it’s the end of the road. Keep trying and something will definitely drop for you.
Is 7 years a long time to be in school?
It definitely is a long time. Worse was that I did not realize how this time passed because I was in school and the delays here and there due to the strike actions made me not to move further. My mates in other schools were graduating and people I taught in Sunday school were coming to meet me in the university (laughs). That was painful for me to experience but I became wiser.
As we round up, what do you think about After School Africa?
Immediately I got this scholarship, I began sending people messages to subscribe to After School Africa. I thought since it has actually helped me, I should let others know about it.
I think publicity should increase because there are so many opportunities on your Site that Africans are eligible for. Each time I get your mail I look through the scholarships and send to friends and colleagues that I know would need them. I commend you and your team for the very good job. The scholarships are so on point but I think more publicity should be given to these opportunities so that more young Africans can be as lucky as me.
I really wasn’t expecting this interview. I just wanted to show my appreciation to After School Africa and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Thank you for reaching out. Any last words?
My last words will be to the youth of Africa. Dreams come true. If they repeat themselves in your heart, don’t give up on them. it may be a sign that that is your direction so don’t give up!