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ASA’s graduation crush: Nomzamo Mbatha and Njabulo Ntombela

Hi ASA fam

I decided it was the perfect timing in light of all the controversy around the University of Florida‘s incidents with black students during their graduation ceremony (here). It’s important to understand that graduation for Africans is NEVER a small thing! Not only because we all have a good dose of #Wakandamagic in us, but also it remains an achievement for our ourselves and families esp. if we put things in perspective and look at the stats of people with tertiary education in Sub-saharan Africa. Today’s post is inspired by Nomzamo Mbatha (South African actress) and Njabulo Ntombela (a graduate of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal‘s faculty of Law) ‘s graduations. Everything about it was amazing, here’s why:

Their story

Nomzamo dropped out of the University of Cape Town (UCT) to pursue a career in acting after she lost close people in her family, which forced her to pursue her dream. Fast forward a few years later, she is 27 and definitely one of the top actresses in South Africa with a few international brands endorsements such as Neutrogena. This is #goals because despite her success, she decided to come back to finish what she started, her degree-a Bachelor in Commerce (BCom) in Accounting.

Njabulo comes from Nkandla (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa) and was raised by his great-grandmother after both his parents and grandmother passed, in his interviews with News24 he says “he’ll live to honor her”.

Honoring their loved ones

Her dress had pictures of the loved ones she lost (one of whom she lost to suicide), and the depression & suicide helpline for South Africa. In her own words, “I wanted the pictures of my late baby sister, Carla, late older sister, Matu, my late father, Nicholas Nxumalo and the greatest love of my life, the woman who named me Nomzamo, my late grandmother, MamJoli. The many tragedies I had to survive.”

Nomzamo Mbatha in her Vanessa Gouden dress (a South African designer)

 

On the other hand, not only did Njabulo decided to wear his traditional attire to represent his cultural heritage; but he also decided to take his great-grandmother to the podium with him to be capped. His picture was a hit on social media and gave South Africa #thefeelsfordays! What a beautiful act of reverence to honor the person who supported him!  I must admit that I regret not doing this for my parents, and hope to make this up in future (guess I’d better get working on that Ph.D. and/or MBA,lol!).

Njuabulo walking with his great-grandmother to be capped (SowetanLive)

Honoring Ma’ Winnie Mandela

Nomzamo had mentioned in a previous interview that her icon was her namesake Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela (former ex-wife of late president Nelson Mandela) affectionately referred to as “the mother of the nation” by South Africans for her contribution and keeping the fight against apartheid alive while her then-husband was incarcerated. Her graduation happened to be at the same time of Ma’ Winnie’s passing and she chose to honor her during her ceremony. She shouted the very popular ” Amandla Awethu!” which means “power to us”-the slogan of the fight against apartheid. In Nomzamo’s own words, ” This was your dream…You fought for the marginalized and was immensely instrumental in the defeat of the brutal apartheid regime. Your resilience ensured that today, we, your children could walk on a graduation stage built off the backs of our fallen people… we assure you that we receive the BATON…”

Africa well represented i.e. Ululations on fleek

You can hear Nomzamo’s loved ones scream at the top of their lungs as she makes her way to the podium in this video (here). If you are African and/or have ever attended an African celebration ceremony, you will be familiar with ululations (those coordinated sounds/screams you hear people make…#thefeels). While these have variations depending on which part of the continent you are from…The fact remains the happier we are, the stronger we ululate!

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from you about how you and family celebrated your graduation or are planning to celebrate your graduation this year. My own mother did not disappoint for my graduation when it came to ululating…she came VERY prepared with tools (so extra…lol!) but that’s a story for another day :).

Stay awesome until my next post

XxKenaya

Overcoming the odds: The story of Christy Shakuyungwa #NamibianQueen

Hi ASA fam

I hope you are all doing well in your respective corners of the world, happy International Women’s Day to all our female readers. I decided to start a new series called #ASAHallofFame to introduce people who have/continue to inspire me throughout their journey either as students and/or professionals. I know that as a student abroad you will face MANY challenges, hopefully these stories help you realise that whatever you are going through is temporary because other people have faced similar challenges and overcame them. Today is about a very close friend of mine, and I could not think of anyone else on this #InternationalWomensDay: Christy Shakuyungwa-her story is nothing short of inspirational.

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My friend aka #ASAHallofFame Christy Shakuyungwa

I honestly cannot remember how I met Christy,  it may have been through a group assignment of Technical Drawing in first year…we have remained friends for over a decade through laughing at the failed tests, many MANY very long sleepless nights before an exam, boy’s stories, running a few races and wine-filled evenings. When I started ASA, I knew that I wanted to share her story as someone I completely admire for beating the odds, and thankfully she agreed to  it.

Christy first started her studies in Namibia at the University of Namibia (UNAM), where she started a degree in in Marine Biology. Halfway through it, she realised that she really did not enjoy it and convinced her family to allow her to study Chemical Engineering in South Africa. She applied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), got accepted and thankfully secured a scholarship from a mining company.  Unfortunately, despite spending 80-90% of her time studying, she did not achieve the minimum required grades and faced academic exclusion from UCT. She then decided to register through the University of South Africa (UNISA) to complete Maths and Physics which would then allow her to come back to UCT-this was an option allowed by UCT at the time. With very difficult finances (and unable to have her own accommodation), she managed to do just that and came back to UCT for the 2nd year. During that time, she was also dealing with an emotionally abusive  and manipulative partner (and only revealed this much later before they broke up). As a result she was diagnosed with depression, and was on medication for a period of time… Unfortunately, she was excluded again from UCT in her 3rd year due to low academic grades and lost her scholarship. In between, she went home and told her family what she had been going through. She then came back and  registered with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to finish her Chemical Engineering degree as Technologist. She lived on a shoestring budget but that never stopped her from smiling, she has always been one of the most resourceful people I know. Things seemed to be getting better for her: she was studying again and only had 2 years left, she also got out of the abusive relationship painful and went on to meet a wonderful man. He was such a wonderful angel who was unfortunately diagnosed with leukemia and passed away a few months after. After much pain and still battling depression, she graduated from CPUT and went back to Namibia to find work. With a limited job market and tough economy, she secured a job only 1 year later which was tough emotionally as there were moments when the depression seemed to win over. She always wanted to be an entrepreneur and decided to resign and pursue her entrepreneurial dream full time after a year or two into her job. She started a doll company (Taati & friends) as well as a linen company (Lipitua Linen). Due to a slow start and limited income being generated, she decided to go back to full time employment while pursuing her dream of becoming an entrepreneur as side hustle.

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A picture of the African doll she has created: Taati & friends with traditional Namibian attire

Fast forward a few years, she is now a full time chemical engineer and owns not one but two businesses in her beautiful country Namibia. My biggest lesson from Christy’s journey is that of perseverance and self belief. She had so many reasons to be discouraged, and give up but she never quite did. We always joke with her and say that things can only get better for her as she has gone through drama of a lifetime in a short and intense period of time in her 20s. By the looks of things, it is indeed true. Her dolls business is picking up and she won the first US embassy in Namibia’s bootcamp for social entrepreneurship and represented her country at the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme (AWEP). She was also selected as part of the first lady of Namibia group of women for a study tour. Oh as if it was not enough, she continues to push the linen business while on a full time job.

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Christy winning her prize from the bootcamp

I hope this inspires you. Whatever you might be going through, get yourself a good support system and believe in yourself. Why? Well, there is really only one of you in this planet: if this is not motivation, not sure what else it could be. I hope you enjoyed this post.

XxKenaya

Challenges faced by African students while abroad

Hey y’all

Today’s post is exactly about why I started this blog: sharing our experiences as African students abroad and the challenges we face on a daily basis. I came across this article on World University News (here) about a Nigerian student (Adeagbo Oluwafemi)’s experience while trying to enrol for his Master in South Africa. The main challenges he encountered were:

Raising finance through scholarship

He deferred his registration by one year in the hope of securing a scholarship. A year later he was encouraged to apply for a Scholarship 2scholarship knowing very well that as a non-SADC he would not qualify and later encouraged to come to South Africa as it would be easiest to access funding opportunities

Being promised he would secure a scholarship upon his arrival in South Africa which did not materialise

Upon his arrival, his supervisor relocated and he was left to Scholarship picture_GMfend for himself. As a true hustler with good grades, he secured a scholarship which could finally cover the tuition fees halfway through that year. Alas, his troubles were not over.

International student fees over and/above tuition fees

Non-Southern African Development Community (SADC) students (Africans or not) are expected to pay international feesSupport required for ASA (~$2000 additional on a yearly basis), and off course this is something he was never told through his dealings with the university.

I thank his courage for sharing his story: Adeagbo was fortunate enough to later secure a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) scholarship which covered all his fees and allowed him to finish his masters. However, this is not the case for everyone and I have seen this happen to at least 2-3/5 African students doing their postgraduate studies in South Africa, and sadly not everyone gets a happy ending.

I hope you found this post helpful ( know that you are not alone and can overcome this if going through something similar. Alternatively know what to watch out for if you are planning to enrol in a postgraduate degree).  See below the full article.

Do share your story and/or send this to someone going through a tough time. Until the next post :).

XxKenaya

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High numbers of postgraduate and international students in a university are major requirements for successful evaluation and ranking. African universities are now preaching ‘internationalisation’ and collaboration with foreign institutions through various programmes, for both research purposes and international recognition.

South African universities are leading other African universities and this can be seen in collaboration between South Africa’s universities and those in Europe and America. This is a welcome development. However, internationalisation is putting other African citizens studying in South Africa under pressure. 

Another major role of internationalisation is to create an environment for South African students to learn the cultures of other countries – particularly from African students who come from nations north of the Southern African Development Community, SADC.

But this internationalisation is being undermined by exorbitant international student fees. Non-SADC students struggle to access postgraduate scholarships despite all kinds of funding – local and international – available for postgraduate study in South Africa.

But without further ado, let me briefly narrate my experience as an international student in one of South Africa’s top universities.

My experience

I was in the final stage of an honours programme in Nigeria when one of my lecturers, who had gone to South Africa for his PhD, sent me an email suggesting that I apply for a masters at a South African university. He said there were several postgraduate funding opportunities that could cover my studies.

I graduated with a good result and applied for a masters at a leading South African university (which I will not name), with the intention of getting funded. I was working for an international company in Nigeria when the outcome of my application came – and it was positive.

I was very happy, having always dreamed of new experiences. But it turned out that this was a mirage. I was supposed to start my masters that year but could not because I had no money to fund myself, so I deferred my admission to the following academic year.

During this period, my prospective department sent all applicants a form to apply for a particular scholarship that is attached to the department. I did a lot of spiritual vigil, fasting and praying, because I discovered from the application form that the scholarship was restricted to South African students and those from SADC and that it was rare for students from other African countries to be awarded.

It was a bright Monday morning when I got an email saying I had been accepted for the masters a second time, and that this placed me in a competitive position for the scholarship because admission to the programme was a prerequisite.

I started preparing myself for the great journey ahead, having made up my mind to make use of the second opportunity, come what may.

I immediately contacted someone to help with medical aid and other required documentation in order for the South African high commission in my country to issue a study permit. My permit application was successful, though not without hassles.

While in the middle of preparing I received an email on the outcome of the scholarship, and almost fainted when I read that I had been unsuccessful. But something in me kept me going.

My former lecturer said I should find my way to South Africa and would surely get a scholarship once there. I gathered the little money I could from friends and family. On arriving I discovered that the lecturer was no longer in South Africa to accommodate me, and after staying with his friends for three weeks, I was sent on my way.

I could not register at the university because I could not pay the fees. I went to the department for help but nothing came of it. I kept going back and praying for a miracle.

The scholarship and financial aid office said all available scholarships were for South Africans but I could apply for a university merit award due to my excellent result. I applied and was lucky to get it in the middle of the year. I went immediately to the registration centre – I couldn’t wait to finally be a masters student.

Shocking international fees

But I got the shock of my life when I was told to pay an international student fee of more than R16,000 (US$2,000), over and above a tuition fee of almost R35,000 (US$4,500). I was so stressed that I nearly developed psychological problems. I thought of returning to Nigeria, because at no point had anybody told me about the exorbitant international student fee. 

The international fee had been jacked up from R2,500 to R16,000 – and it keeps rising every year. In 2012 the international fee at the university, payable by all international students including Africans from outside SADC, is around R21,000.

I was incredibly lucky eventually to receive an international scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, which paid all my fees – one lucky person among very many foreign students in South Africa who are struggling to complete their studies.

I finished my masters but was then faced with the problem of funding PhD studies as an international student.

More help needed for African postgraduate students

What is interesting is that there are large numbers of international postgraduate students from African countries north of SADC, but they pay the same fees as students from rich countries.

What is happening with internationalisation when African students must pay such high fees on their own continent? Students leaving one European country for another are treated as home students.

It is also interesting to note that some universities with such fee discrimination are also collecting substantial government subsidies based on their numbers of postgraduate students. 

Many African students have landed on the streets due to the discriminatory policies of some institutions in South Africa, and have lost completely. I know a lot of students from Nigeria and other non-SADC nations who have had to drop out of university because of this problem.

I tried, in my capacity as an executive member of an international students’ association, to discuss this with my university, but the international office and management were dismissive. And most annoying was that the international fees have kept increasing by more than 10% a year.

I sincerely appreciate the scholarship that was awarded to me during my masters, but I was just lucky.

I write this story not to blame anyone or any institution, but to show that international students from the non-SADC region of Africa are finding it really hard to survive, and to argue that they should not be made to pay what non-Africans are paying in South African universities.

I believe South African and international funders should increase scholarships for international postgraduate students and should include non-SADC African students in their funding schemes – because these students are contributing positively to development in South Africa and Africa through their skills, research and publications.

Adeagbo Oluwafemi is now a PhD student in a South African university that charges lower international student fees.

ASA’s recent favourites

Hi y’all

Today’s post is short and sweet. I thought I would share with you a few of the things I have been enjoying lately

Nathaniel‘s Bamboo kitchen board

I purchased this from Checkers (a local chain store) and have used it both as a platter to serve food and cutting board

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Positivity at home

Based on my reflection of what 2016 taught me (here), you will know I have decided to strive to live in “gratitude mode” and focus on finding things to be grateful for daily. In line with that, I am trying to create a welcoming/peaceful atmosphere in my flat with positive messages

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Door stopper I picked up at Sheet Street
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I also picked this from Sheet Street

Keeping active indoors (more like trying to)

I gave up my gym membership when I moved cities as I was not using it fully and decided to train outdoors for the 21km (refer to my previous post about preparing it for it, here). Running outside is becoming increasingly difficult as winter is fast approaching, so I have decided to work out in the comfort of my home, using Fitness Blender and Billy Blanks‘ Taebo  Youtube videos.

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I purchased these from Game

Colour black

I am determined to eliminate anything grandmother-ish”” and/or I no longer wear from my wardrobe & replace it one item at a time. Almost everything that have caught my eye and I have purchased recently is black & I must be going through “loving black every day all day” kind of phase…lol!

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From left to right: (i) both unibody piece and bra from a lingerie boutique in Menlyn, (ii) chocker and black top from River Island,  (iii) sun glasses, earrings and dress from H&M
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These flat shoes from Woolworths

Coffee

You guys know I am proud and self confessed coffee addict 🙂

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Favourite latte from Seatle Coffee
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These three pots I got from Mr Price Home

New places

Most capetownians will laugh at the idea of moving up north: I mean what would life be without Table Mountain and the beach? Lol!… I have genuinely enjoyed discovering a few outdoors spots Gauteng has to offer, and it seems there are lots of these hidden gems.

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Alkatrand Park, Pretoria Lynnwood
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I got to tag along a friend of a friend’s party at The River Cabin
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I went for a hike in the Walter Sisulu Gardens (& would highly recommend it)

Have great week

XxKenaya

What can go wrong when travelling

Hey Peeps

Everyone always talks about the glamorous aspects of travel and not enough about some of the nightmares you can encounter and how to deal with them.While I do consider myself a fairly novice individual in the world of travel, I believe I have had my fair share of good and bad experiences. This article is a collation of problems you might experience/have experienced/will experience in your chase to your next destination.

Luggage weight (overruns)

I think many Africans (because we like stuff) and girls (for the same reason) struggle with this. Although I have gotten better at this, I still (almost always) travel with a lot more Blog_ExcessBaggage_620flipstuff than I need (e.g. heels for that night out that never happens, two coats/jackets, 3-4 different pairs of shoes + sneakers, etc). My only way of controlling myself has been to (i) to plan my outfits in my head, and then (ii) pack-I find that I take less stuff with me this way. Also if you are planning to shop (which most Africans do when travelling abroad because things on the continent seem to cost at least double), then make sure you only pack for half the weight of your luggage allowance.

Delayed flight

Lawd, I have stories about this one: it has happened too damn often, I have definitely learned to Delayed flightchill.  Where possible if travelling for an important event (e.g. a wedding/meeting/conference), try to get there the night before a major event, if not at least a few hours before. I once had a wedding at 14h00 and planned to take the 6am for 2 hrs between Cape Town and Joburg. This plan was perfect except for the fact that the flight was delayed by 3 hrs-which meant I got ready in the car on my way to the wedding.

Missing connecting flights

Try to avoid too tight connections (e.g. at least 2 hrs) especially in a new country where the airport can literally be like a city: Charles de Gaulle in Paris takes the cup for me so far! Not sure if it was the post #Parisattack, but there must have been like 20 checks from the moment I dropped my baggage, to the actual gate of the plane…bleh!

Missing flights

Missing flightI have a few stories here, but it does happen…in my case, it was entirely my fault as most of the reasons were (i) could not find my passport on the day of the flight, (ii) read the arrival time instead of the departure and off course the classic one, missed the flight date by like 1 entire day (these midnight flights are tricky, lol!)

Suitcase gone Missing In Action (M.I.A)

Survival tip here: if you are travelling for an important function (be it work, baptism, wedding,etc.), keep your clothes for the day in your hand luggage. I have had my suitcase missing on the same trip both on the way to the conference, and also coming back from the conference. Also, depending on where you leave, luggage theft is a reality: rather have all the expensive electronics you bought with you in your hand luggage than risk it.

Trust issues/visas

My #Nigerian and #Congolese friends will understand this. Never leave your visa application to the last minute: just NEVER do that. We are probably on the red list pretty Visa picture_GMmuch anywhere in the world, which means that THOU SHALL GO THROUGH EVERY POSSIBLE CHECK both while applying for a visa (especially for the first time), at any airport & any given time regardless. Do not take it personally, this happens pretty much to all of us: smile, greet the officer nicely-it makes it less painful, lol!

Unreliable in-between transport

I used to make the mistake of assuming what is important is getting to a place e.g. Joburg/Cape Town/Paris. Yes, your flight & visa are crucial for your journey, but even more important is getting to your ACTUAL destination (hotel/conference/friend’s place). Uber does not always work everywhere in the world, not all taxis are trustworthy either… Ask questions to the locals if no one is fetching you, and plan to get to your hotel safely, comfortably, affordably but most importantly in ONE piece & alive.

Weather related or acts of God-Turbulence

I was once in a quite a scary flight: what was supposed to be a 2 hr flight between Joburg and Cape Town, ended up being like a 6 hr escapade via Bloemfontein because trying to land with a bad storm would have been suicidal. We just had to wait it out until the storm calmed down.

Cheap(er) flights

I have really well organized friends, who plan their big holidays (i.e. out of the country) at Cheap flightleast a year in advance, and I have learnt that this can save you up to ~50% of the ticket costs. If you are a last
minute person like the rest of us (try book at least 1-3 months in advance). Also: Monday and Friday, Morning and end of the day flights tend to be most expensive if going on holiday and not time bound-avoid them like a plague. You can save at least ~R500 on local flights (i.e. ~$34)

 

I hope you enjoyed the post and/or it made you laugh at the very least 😉

XxKenaya

Attractive careers for African students

Hi ASA fam

Apologies for going MIA & hope you had an awesome week-end! Truth is, things have changed recently: I moved cities and am Opportunitystill adjusting to the new environment…  Today’s post is about career options in the creatives which does not always seem sensical to African parents (#Africanparentsproblems). Deciding what to study is a challenging process in an African home especially because the only welcomed choices often are: doctor/medical field, engineer (not even sciences, it’s too broad…lol!), lawyer and finance/economics. While it comes from a good place (parents assume these courses will lead to a good job and stable income), the job market dynamics are completely different nowadays and one can make a great living in the creatives. Whether you decide to pursue this full-time/part-time, there is no lack of examples of Africans who have excelled in the creatives. I decided to write about this based on people whose work I admire…hopefully, this helps you if currently exploring your career/study options to follow your passion.

Fashion designer

Anyone interested in the fashion industry will know that African fashion is Jewel by LisaDEFINITELY on the global radar, and the last 10 years have seen a surge of very successful designers from the continent (from self-taught designers to those who studied fashion design). All are not only making a very good living but also a positive impact in their communities since most designers have their workshop in their home countries if not based there. Some of my favourites are:

  • Aisha Ayensu, Ghanain psychologistist turned designer of the exquisite brand Christie BrownAndrea Iyamah
  • Jewel by Lisa, lawyer turned designer who has graced many international runways
  • Mina Evans, studied fashion design in South Africa at the Design School  of Southern Africa and went back to Ghana to set up her brand
  • Andrea Iyamah, of Ghanaian origin living in Canada. You have been living under a tree if you do not know these designer…her incredible swimsuits have many celebrities rocking her pieces
  • David Tlale, South African accountant turned designer-what a powerhouse!

Photography

  • PhotographyRemi Adetiba. A powerhouse who moved away from a career in advertising, to being a photographer. He is also Africa’s version of “Nigel” for Africa’s Next Top Model.
  • Tariro Washe, a friend of mine who studied Sport management and later photography now based in Zimbabwe

Blogger/Youtuber/social media influencer

This is probably one of the newest careers on the map but MANY people have found their Cynthia Gwebufortune through Youtube. I almost want to bet you will never convince an African parent not to go to school to do Youtube full time, but you can do it part-time and see how it evolves. My favorites Youtubers are:

  • Cynthia Gwebu, a South African beauty Youtuber-her tutorial and channel are simply flawless
  • Sharon Mundia, Kenya’s sweetheart in the beauty space who runs both the blog and Youtube channel called This is Ess
  • Overcoming the odds, Dr Antonio Webb is a US based doctor who documents his journey through medecine to encourage others
  • Shirley B. Eniang, UK based mathematician turned beauty and lifestyle guru….Shirley has won the hearts of many and is making a comfortable living from her creative side
  • Patricia Bright, used to be called Brit Pop Princess for a reason and recently reached the 1 millions suscribers mark-seen as a huge achievement esp. as a woman of colour. I absolutely love her easy going attitude and how relatable she is.
  • Fight Mediocrity, I use this to get summaries of books I like and also kick my ass into gear on a lazy day

Graphic designer/Fashion Illustrator

  • Peniel Enchill, a Ghanain living in the UK who graduated with first class honour with 15625548_1800703076862262_8718030011623276544_na degree in Economics and Business Management, and later decided to pursue her passion as a fashion illustrator. Her drawings have “broken” the internet more than once.

Fashion Model

  • Philomene kwaoAamito Lagun, the first winner of Africa’s next top model cruising the US runaways currently
  • Adera Hinson: Ugandan , Currently studying and modelling thanks to a deal she made with her parents. Read more about her story (here)
  • Philomena Kwao, Ghanaian living in the UK the winner of British’s top model plus size edition with a masters degree. She also has her own blog called The Philes.

I hope you enjoyed this article and would love to hear from you whether you are in the creatives and/or considering starting your own side project.

Until the next time 😉

XxKenaya

 

Dating lessons from my student years

Hi Everyone!

I decided to venture into a scary territory and talk about dating and boys back in my uni years. I find that the biggest challenge most African students tend to face is finding the balance between who you are (i.e. culture, values, religious beliefs or not) while growing yourself and adapting to your host country. I believe we live in a completely different world from our parents’ & well…the struggle is real y’all!. Looking back, here’s what  my brief stints in dating life have taught me:

Ugly duckling do tend to turn into beautiful swans

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If you have that friend with a wonderful attitude, he is smart & focused on his goals, your mum loves him…always walks you at night when you study late: he’s perfect…only problem is he does not have the “x” factor & his dress sense sucks…this will not always be the case. The truth is in your early 20s someone to have fun with (and people’s looks) seem so important, but as you get older-what matters is someone to build a life with (that is reliable and trustworthy) and with whom you can have tons of laughs in the process. Fast forward a few years, I can guarantee you that guy will be a catch. I have seen it happen a few times where old uni friends finally take the plunge in dating & become a power couple. Don’t sweat the small stuff and overthink it, I genuinely believe that “it” will happen if & when it is meant to happen.

Slayage is not a value

Many girls make/have made that mistake (myself included). Dating a model (if that is all he has to himself) only looks good on a picture, there need to be more qualities (i.e. generosity, giphy-3reliability, funny, smart/hardworking, etc)… don’t simply date a guy because he is “cute”-these “cute” ones often tend to be extremely self-absorbed, believe they have at least 100s of girls after them, and make you a temporary assignment/distraction. He needs to have more than just being “very hot/cute” [at the least for me 🙂 ]

Trust your guts

It does not matter how many butterflies you feel when near the guy, if your gut tells you something is wrong…I have learnt to take it as Gospel truth: run…lol!

Put yourself out there, three dates rule

Go on dates, period! If I am asked on a date (unless really creepy): I go & commit to at least 3 dates before making up my mind about someone. The more people you meet, the more you understand what you like and/or do not like and even more importantly, the more people you are likely to meet.

It is difficult for the guys too

giphy-5It takes great courage to approach someone you like knowing that you might face rejection. Don’t be a mean girl, if not interested let the guy know respectfully that you do not see him that way…Even if he is persistent, after a while he will get tired and move on with someone that actually likes him the way he deserves to be liked/loved.

Heartbreaks do heal themselves with time

I once dated a guy for 1 year & took 3 years to get over him (rolling eyes, I know..lol!). There are no formulas to get over a heartbreak but what makes it painful (and drag on) is not accepting that it is over …truth is it WILL hurt & suck (people have compared break-ups to the pain of mourning a loved one). However, if you do the right thing (i.e. keep the right kind of busy with friends, school, work, side projects, etc) time will pass & before you know it…all will remain is a memory. Once heeled, do jump back on the dating horse!

You can’t make someone love you & more importantly you cannot force yourself to love someone

This is probably MY biggest lesson of my 20s. There is a bit of magic in love i.e. that spark or giphy-4those butterflies cannot be manufactured however hard you try. In the words of He’s just not that into you: “when a guy acts like he does not give a sh*t about you, he genuinely does not give a sh*t about you”.

On loving someone, I know relationships are all about compromise i.e. what you can and cannot live with but in my case-I have realised that attraction & getting along (be it mental, physical,etc) is crucial for me. I have learnt, to be honest with myself (and with any guy) re-where I stand & what I feel: otherwise you just end up hurting the person in the long run(or are delusional).

Not all relationships are meant to end in marriage

giphy-2There are 2 huge periods of stress (more like utter panic) in a single African girl’s life i.e. pre-25 and pre-30s. Lawd, why do we do this to ourselves…lol?! Just do not turn every “hi” into “is he the one”? It is pointless, a waste of time and energy… and adds a lot of unnecessary stress in any relationship #truestory.

Nationality/culture can be overrated

Some of the best couples I know are from different nationalities/cultures/tribes/races. While cultural background (be it race, nationalities, tribe etc) matters & can help you better understand your partner, it is should not be a reason for refusing to date someone-period. Keep an open mind and have the courage to admit to yourself that you like and/or attracted to the other self (regardless of background and differences) 🙂

Studies must still come first

No African parents send you abroad for an engagement ring & marriage (abeg!)… Make sure you keep your feet on the ground and do not let your studies take the backseat to your relationship (we have all made that mistake… it ain’t worth it, esp if it does not work out in the end…).

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and would love to hear from you about your experiences of dating while studying abroad. Sharing is caring, your story might be a saving grace for someone else.

Until my next post

XxKenaya

Looking for accommodation as a student abroad: the good, the bad & ugly

Hi Everyone

It is almost the start of the academic year in South Africa & I know every student (and parents’) nightmare at this time of the year is securing a place to stay. This is off course on top of all the other administrative headaches one has to do as a foreign student (i.e. visa, registration, orientation week, fees payment which might not always be straightforward esp. if you come from a remote country with limited access to banking, etc.). student-accommodationLooking back, my story is not any different: both my brother and I got our final acceptance letter early in January and had to move in catastrophe from Joburg to Cape Town in like 2 weeks to start at UCT. While squatting at friends’, I remember walking a combined distance of ~35-40km looking for flats and/or agencies that were advertising available rooms in the university area. Today’s article is a list of a few challenges I wish I was aware of back then, hoping it makes this less painful for you.

Limited space

Campus accommodation has limited space and prioritises those who live outside of the city (in my case it was Cape Town). In the case of many non-English speakers, you might unfortunately not qualify because many (like myself) choose to come do a bridging year before university to either improve their English and/or get acceptable qualifications according to the host country (e.g. A-Levels, Matric, etc).

Risk factor

There is a negative perception around African students, that perception is sad because it is based on a few stereotypes. Some of the more common things you will hear are: Africans do not pay rent on time, destroy property, do not keep

african-students-abroad_gm
Picture from UNC Charlotte

it tidy, sub-let even when forbidden, live with more people than the maximum allowed, or simply can disappear and leave the country, etc (yawn & rolling eyes…). Because of that, some landlords avoid African foreign students like a plague…literally! You will pitch up and be told the flat is already rented even if it is still being advertised 2 weeks later… Do not take it personally, it happens/has happened to all of us & we have survived it. Being aware of this, helps you prepare for that first encounter with the landlord-if he does that not want an African tenant, there is pretty much nothing you can do to change his/her mind: save yourself the effort/time & move on swiftly to your next one. There is a weird saying in my language that says “you sweat to make money, not to spend it”…someone else is bound to accept it…The beauty of money is that it has no colour, nor smell or origin for that matter.

Money

The cheapskate in me has come to understand that comfort & quality do have a price! When it sounds too good/cheap to be true, it usually is: beware! Too cheap will probably mean long travelling hours and/or less than desirable conditions.The closer you stay to campus, the more expensive it tends to be…rent-money_1But on the other hand, transport costs can increase drastically  the further away you stay from
Campus. Hence why it is important to know your budget as this will also help you sharpen your search in terms of areas and types of accommodation i.e. flat/bachelor/house share, travelling, etc.

Site visit: a must!

NEVER accept an accommodation without seeing it first. Worst case scenario if not in the country yet, ask a friend you trust to go see it for you-but even then, standards and what is acceptable for him/her may not be for you… Luckily in this age of WhatsApp, this is much easier with pictures & videos. There are LOADS Of unscrupulous landlords preying on the innocence (and sometimes desperation) of students: they will use pictures of a room that is not theirs, accept deposits from multiple people, tell you it is a 10 min walk to campus while it is at least 10-15 km away-do not fall into their trap, go see for yourself & make your decision

Timing!

Depending on where you find yourself studying, looking for accommodation can be a real #schlep (a word South Africans use as the equivalent to #bleh). I reckon it takes at least 2 months to secure decent accommodation in any big city. Do not leave it for the last minute, start looking early.

I hope you enjoyed this post, have you run into similar difficulties while looking for accommodation? Do share any tips/advice you have with the ASA fam.  After all our troubles-my brother and I found the coolest landlord who tolerated a lot more than what should have been allowed (elongated friends’ visits,etc.) and treated us always kindly & with respect, hence our decision to stay there for  9 years…lol! I wish you the best if about to start the year and currently looking for accommodation.

Until my next post

XxKenaya

 

 

 

 

 

Tertiary education in South Africa 101: Part 1

Hi Everyone

Since most people are getting ready for the festive season while trying to #finish2016strong, I thought I would write something for those of you interested in pursuing your tertiary studies in #SouthAfrica. First things first, if English is not your first language: do enroll real quick and start preparing for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): you will need it! To understand why I think South Africa makes a great destination, check out the article I wrote on top destinations of African students, heresouth-africa

I have chosen to break this topic  into at least 2 or 3 articles
as there is just too much to go through (do watch out for part  2). This first part will focus on making sense of the tertiary education system and basic entrance requirements in South Africa. Generally speaking, there are three types of tertiary institutions:

Universities

(Ivy-League). The typical entrance requirements would be centered around securing “matric exemption”and good grades. This involves submitting your translated transcript from the last 2 years of high school, an entrance test (fairly basic, except for the English part if it is not your mother tongue called National Benchmark Test). Of particular note, should be the fact that entrance requirements into faculties like Law, Architecture, Medecine and Engineering tend to be extremely high-so make sure you ace those exams. For a number of countries like the DRCongo, Tchad, South Soudan, etc; South Africa (and many other Western Countries) does not recognise the high school leaving certificate. Your only way of securing matric exemption is to either complete one year of university in your home country and/or re-do the last year of high school and/or A levels once in South Africa. In my case, I chose the later and re-did my matric.

(Universities, the rest)-The entrance requirements are typically lower and it should be less painful to get admitted especially when one has good grades. Find the list of all tertiary institutions in South Africa, here. I recommend applying to at least 3-5 institutions to increase your chances: most institutions on this list would still be rated better than many other universities on the continent depending on where you come from (so not getting into the #UniversityofCapeTown aka #UCT should not discourage you). A word of caution though, if your ambition is to attend Harvard Business School (dear universe take note oh #failedattemptatpigin) and/or work for the top consulting and/or engineering/law firms: these sadly look at both (i) institutions and (ii) grades-be careful in your choice of universities as it might create a glass ceiling for you later on.

Technickons

These would be the equivalent of “Institut techniques” in the French system. The entrance requirements are typically less cumbersome than universities. Also, for those of you that come from difficult countries like the DRC, all you need to do is translate your results via the  accredited institution i.e the South Africa Qualification Authority (SAQA) and it does not require matric exemption to get admitted. For these reason, many foreign students typically end up enrolling with technickons, rather than a university. Note of caution though: many people make the mistake of thinking they can transfer from a technickon to a university: you can’t! You would have to start over even with a full degree.

Colleges

Also called “Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges”; generally with the lowest entrance requirements and not really valued well in the professional world. You would be typically trained to become an artisant unless studying at private colleges like Damelin, or learning a particular set of skills e.g. photography, marketing/advertising at VEGA (school of advertising), etc. Colleges can be useful for foreign students because I know of people that have enrolled into colleges (by choosing courses very carefully), and use that to apply for matric exemption instead of re-doing the last year of high school .

Other things that might be useful

  • Academic timelines in South Africa: The typical academic year in South Africa starts in late January/early February and closes in November (different from the European system). Applications typically open in June/July and close in October for international students: do not be late-you sadly cannot negotiate yourself out of a late submission!
  • SAQA website,here:   This will be required to get the equivalent of your qualifications, and can take a bit of a while. Start the process early to get the paperwork in time for the applications process
  • Department of Home Affairs, Study permit: check out the requirements for a study visa, here. I remember having to deal with Home Affairs as probably the most difficult, humbling and frustrating part of my stay in South Africa. However, things have changed drastically and if in order, I have been told you can almost get your visa in 2-3 weeks.

Also, check out both articles I wrote on things I wish I knew before I left my country (here) and things to consider before selecting a degree (here). I hope you found this useful if interested in South Africa. Are there any points you would like discussed in more details? If yes, do let me know and leave a comment down below. Share it with a friend interested in South Africa since sharing is caring.

Yours in awesomeness

XxKenaya

Other articles you might enjoy

  • 5 top reasons why you should study in South Africa by Masterstudies.com,here
  • Study abroad in South Africa by Studyabroad.com,here
  • Study in South Africa by Topuniversities.com,here
  • Study in South Africa by Educations.com,here
  • Universities in South Africa by Studyoverseas.com,here

 

 

 

Studying abroad: top destinations of African students

Hey y’all

Happy New Month, happy December! I am always so excited to see December arrive as it is my birthday month: yay (will be welcoming gifts all month long…Thank you very much in advance…lol!). As we come to the end of the year in some parts of the world, many people are anxiously waiting (while our lovely African parents would probably be fasting and praying) for acceptance letters from various universities. I came across this article around mobility of African students (here) a while back and thought I would save it for a later post.

According to the article, there were ~380,000 African students in 2013 on the move who chose to go to the following top destinations i.e. France, South Africa, USA, Germany and Malaysia. The rest of this article discusses a bit more about each destination and why they are attractive.

africa-study-destinations_gm

France

Not really surprising based on the large population in Francophone Africa (I bet a third to probably half of these students would be from the DR Congo)

South Africa

South Africa is great because in the words of a friend of mine it offers “the best of both worlds” i.e. still in Africa, with world class infrastructure and universities that have internationally recognised degrees. Although this may change post all the unrest experienced these last 2 years with #feesmustfall, the truth is the admin/financial implications of studying in South Africa tend to be simpler compared to say Europe, the UK and/or the US.

USA

A dream of mine (ah, dear future MBA-take note!). I have a few friends who studied in the US but coming from Congo, the US was probably the most difficult visa to secure a decade ago (you could literally wait for more than 5 years). I understand this is easier now and more accessible.

Germany

Deutschland-you might want to explore this one and do not be discouraged by the language. A friend of mine currently in Germany was telling me that you would end up paying as much as you do in Cape Town (except, your degree will have more value)

Morocco

There has been a number of signed cooperation agreements between various African countries and Morocco. I know many people who studied there, do check out whether your country qualifies for the scholarship offerings

Other destinations not on the list increasingly within Africa are Tunisia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi as they have very good institutions with increasing ratings globally. Outside of the continent, other attractive destinations are Malaysia, India, Brazil and Canada.

I know that the key criteria when looking at a host country for studies for African students tend to be: (i) visa requirements, (ii) finances  be it scholarship/student jobs opportunities and/or costs implications for parents and (iii) job opportunities  to stay and/or work in the country after studying and (iv) whether you (more like your parents) know anyone there (true story, lol!).

Thinking of studying abroad? Why don’t you check out the entry requirements and various degrees offered in the above countries? I am planning to do separate posts later on entry requirements, and various opportunities for each of the top four-stay tuned :).

Until next time

XxKenaya

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