IEE Newsletter No. 20

EUSA ID: Reports from the first group of scholarship holders

Mnqobi Banele Njoko from South Africa and Marta Montanini from Italy describe their first experiences at their guest universities.

Arriving at a new study institution is always an exciting experience. EUSA-ID scholarship holder Mnqobi Banele Njoko from the Department of Population Studies and Development Studies at the University of Kwazulu in Natal describes his first impressions of Bochum with these words.
'It is my second time in Germany but it is a whole new experience as now I am here full time rather than on exchange, and in a different university and city. The programme attracts mostly international students. Being amongst other international students makes it a bit easier to adapt because you are all learning and you develop support for each other. The academic and support staff have so far been great with regard to our concerns and been very welcoming. Generally, I love the Germans, I've had the best experiences with them.'
'I'm very grateful for my scholarship. I always dreamed of receiving a qualification from Europe and at some point, I almost gave up, but nothing is impossible if you dedicate yourself, have faith, not be shy to say when you need help, believe in yourself and your goals. Also I'm very grateful for having been in Development Studies and Community Development at UKZN, the support we get is amazing. The doors that Development Studies have opened for me as a student have been empowering in ways that go beyond the lecture venue. I'm grateful to Dr Ngcoya, Prof Sithole, Priya Konan, Ms Phindile Shangase and my Supervisor, Prof Ballard for the support, advice and encouragement throughout my studies. But most important, I'm grateful and lucky to have a mother who supports me through and through.'
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EUSA_ID student Banele Mnqobi Njoko together with EUSA_ID coordinators Britta Niklas and Gabriele Bäcker (photo: IEE)

Marta Montanini, who is a PhD candidate in Social and Political Change from the University of Turin, Italy, and who has been awarded a EUSA_ID scholarship for a research stay at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, found these words to describe her experiences in the first few months at her new host institution.
MarthaMontanini"My first months at NMMU have been very intensive and engaging, but I also had the time to discover the city and to take some relaxing moments in front of the sea or surrounded by the wind of the beautiful coastline. I had a very warm welcome and I felt I had been integrated in the activities of the department from the beginning. NMMU Development Department is a particularly alive and young environment, and I felt lucky to have been selected to come and share my work and reflections with this team. Colleagues, lecturers, professors and administrative officers have been extremely friendly and helpful, taking the time to talk to me and to explain the challenges, the problems and the rich and complex history and multicultural identity of Port Elizabeth.
Some of my favorite moments in the Department are definitely the ones in which informal conversations or discussions about development issues start, maybe between corridors or at lunch time, and suddenly everybody takes part in them, feeling free to give a contribution or just to listen, or to learn. The interaction between the Department and the students is also very dynamic and I found it very interesting to come across their observations and experiences during seminars and lectures.
Of course, as each time somebody moves from home and get to a new place, there have been some difficult days, in which I had to get familiar with university administration, offices and buildings, and I had to find a way to move around, as public transport in Port Elizabeth is not always easy to understand.
Being a PhD student in a mobility programme is challenging, as you have to balance your spaces of autonomy with the need of building a strong network of scholars, friends and persons of reference and to learn as much as possible about the place you are visiting. You have to find ways to share your ideas with people that can give you useful suggestions and sometimes you have to accept to feel lonely, as building deep relationships take time, and research and fieldwork have also their own specific rhythm.
In the next months I am sure that my research will improve, thanks to the different inputs and feedbacks I'm receiving and I hope that my relations with new friends and colleagues will also get stronger. Now that I start to feel more comfortable with my life in NMMU and in PE, I wish to be able to give a more significant contribution to activities of the Department, being as open and helpful as my hosts are being with me, and possibly trying to make links between my sending university and NMMU. Even if I have only been here for a few months, I already feel that this mobility experience is a crucial step in my PhD career and I am highly motivated in engaging in it with patience and passion."

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