Life may seem unfair sometimes. While a lot of people are looking for funding for their studies, someone is being spoilt with the options of six fully-funded and two partial international scholarships.
After his first encounter with a computer at the age of 13, Kaleab Alemayehu found himself in a long-term romance with the computing world. This has lead him from designing an award-winning project at the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, lending his skills at his fathers’ company, to winning six fully-funded scholarships and two partial scholarships to study abroad for Masters in Korea, Italy, France, Spain, and Hungary.
In his words, “The harder you work on your dream, the greater you will feel when you achieve it.”
Watch the inspiring story of this young man.
Read the transcript of the interview below.
Tell us about these scholarships you won?
Kaleab: It’s about six scholarships that I have won which are fully funded. The first one is an Erasmus Mundus program. It is given at three different institutions in 3 countries in Europe (France, Spain and Hungary). The other scholarships are the Invest Your Talent in Italy (Universita de Pisa), and the Italian Government scholarship (University of Messina). The next one is, the Korean government scholarship. I was admitted to Seoul National University, which is a top university in Korea to study engineering and the other to study Computer science and engineering.
Are you going to take the whole scholarships or would you have to select some and let go the others?
Kaleab: Yeah, I have to select exactly one. I cannot take more than one. I think most of the schools that I’ve been admitted are really great. The disciplines are what I would want to study, but I have to select one as I have said. So I think I would go for the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship program because it’s in the specialisation that I am really in love with. Very prestigious institution. Plus the Erasmus Mundus is a wonderful program, it also has a generous scholarship package, so I think I’d be good with it.
What is it about you that gave you the advantage to acquire all these scholarships?
Kaleab: Maybe it could be my academic performance and some awards. Actually, I have the best degree in Computer Science from Addis Ababa University, which is the largest and the oldest university in Ethiopia. I had a CGPA of 3.93 which was the highest CGP from my college and there are also some awards that I have gained during my study. But beyond that, I think the most important thing is how I presented myself to the committee. I have calculated and clearly stated my strengths and my plan, and I think I have shown them why I’m worth it. I think that’s what made me stand out from the others.
Let’s talk about how you got to know about these scholarships in the first place.
Kaleab: I think one is from word of mouth. The other is through a professor in my school and the rest is through your amazing platform, Afterschool Africa.
That’s good to know. Which of the platform are you more active with on Afterschool Africa? Is it the mobile app or the website?
Kaleab: As a matter of fact, I have used all of them and I think I have used a lot the mobile app. I really love your platform because it has an elegant user interface, it is very easy to navigate. And then above all, it’s very organized. Anyone can easily get the scholarship. I have actually recommended it to a lot of friends and colleagues and it’s really a great job that you are doing. Keep it up!
Thank you for that. Did you apply any strategy in applying for this number of scholarships?
Kaleab: Actually, I had not a clearly stated plan, but I know that I have to pursue my study, next year. So I was very dedicated applying to numerous scholarship programs. But when I apply, I don’t just apply to try, I applied to win. I made sure that I do everything that makes the selection committee select or choose my application. I have put a lot of hard work into it.
And your hard work paid eventually.
Kaleab: Of course, it paid off, but I felt amazed when I learned that I have won the scholarships. I planned to get at least one or two and I didn’t expect getting all of them honestly speaking.
In total, how many scholarships did you apply for?
Kaleab: I have applied for 8 scholarships, but the other two gave me a partial scholarship.
Were you involved in any form of community service during your stay in the higher institution that also played out to your advantage of getting the scholarship?
Kaleab: Oh yeah, of course. I was, but not that much a member of a charity club. I have played some role. I have played a role in designing brochures and creating awareness of the club. But not as much actually. And I mentioned this in the course of my application.
How do you think African students can be more competitive in applying for these international scholarships?
Kaleab: I think what most of the African youth or students lack is the devotion or the dedication to apply. And I have seen a lot of students even my friends being discouraged after they see that they have to write a lot of essays and they have to sit for a standard language options. They feel discouraged, they drop out easily. They give up easily. So what I would advise is, never give up because of the time it will take. The time will pass anyway. So to achieve your goal, you have to be dedicated and put a lot of hard work and you can easily achieve it.
What would you tell someone who is still working towards that point of getting a scholarship to be doing today to be better qualified for a scholarship tomorrow?
Kaleab: Yeah, that’s a great question because as a student, they have to work hard to get good grade, better knowledge and to prepare for further studies. So if you can show that you are talented or you have the academic knowledge, anyone would like to work with you, anyone would like to invest in you.
What essay tips would you give to prospective candidates?
Kaleab: As I have said earlier, you have to present your strengths, you have to focus on your strengths and show the committee you know what you are doing. You’re not just applying. The other thing is that you have to show your enthusiasm for the field of study that you are applying.
Can you tell us about yourself, and your background?
Kaleab: I was born in a historical town in Ethiopia. I have a sister. I am the second and the last child in my family. I was introduced to the computing system when I was 13 years old and since then I felt in love with the computing world. My family has played a great role to becoming who I am now. I even worked in my dad’s computing solution centre as a desktop publisher, as cell phone and computer technician, as a web developer and mobile app developer. It helped me a lot to become who I am today.
How did you feel when you saw all that “congratulation” emails coming your way?
Kaleab: I felt surprised to learn that I have these several scholarships. I felt lucky. I was destined for this, you know, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I was prepared and the opportunities were out there. So when my preparation met the opportunities out there this just came out. The harder you work on your dream, the greater you will feel when you achieve it, I really do feel great.
Final word of encouragement to other African students out there looking for scholarships…
Kaleab: Never give up; work hard until you get “congratulations” on your email inbox.
What do you think about Afterschool Africa?
Kaleab: As I have told you it’s an amazing app. It’s wonderful. It’s very easy to navigate and get scholarship that really fits you. The subscription is really amazing. The mobile app; especially because it loads only the scholarships you are likely to be eligible for. I have recommended it to lots of friends and colleagues. So it’s really a great job.
Thank you for your time and for sharing your experience. I hope people who get to read about this would be inspired, and also take action on what you have shared today.
Kaleab: Thank you for having me.