Education and experience: How returning to university can unlock new opportunities
By Ramatu Umar Bako
Ramatu Umar Bako graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2017 with a master's in Global Conflict and Peace Processes. In this blog she shares why she decided to return to the classroom as a mature student and how the skills learnt while studying in the UK helped her become Head of Influencing and Public Engagement at Oxfam Nigeria.
I went back to education while raising a family, many years after my first degree in Law and with many years of work experience. I was privileged to study as a Chevening scholar. As a mature student, I used the opportunity to learn, relearn and unlearn the prejudices and stereotypes I held about different people and cultures. It was an opportunity for me to really understand myself and what I wanted out of my life.
‘I used the opportunity to learn, relearn and unlearn the prejudices and stereotypes I held about different people and cultures.’
Before my master's course I had been a lifelong traveller to the UK, but I can assure you that visiting and living in the UK are two different experiences. As a visitor, you see things through a different lens. I am happy to say that studying in the UK has been the best experience of my life. Initially, I thought academic work would be easy having years of experience writing and reviewing reports, but I quickly realised that academic writing is different from social writing. The intense research, citations and fear of plagiarism was a lot of pressure. Gathering sources and references was a challenge.
The highlight of my UK university experience was studying and engaging with students from around the world. The opportunity to learn from a diverse team of lecturers from different countries was another advantage as their teaching styles highlighted their multiple realities. I found my volunteering experience at Alzheimer’s Scotland very enriching and rewarding too.
‘I am happy to say that studying in the UK has been the best experience of my life.’
Seeing the opportunities and way of life in the UK allowed me to realise what I wanted from life and what could be possible going forward. I currently work at Oxfam Nigeria as Head of Influencing and Public Engagement where I lead a team on communication, advocacy and strategic partnerships across the country. I use a lot of the skills learnt from my UK study experience when engaging with people. I believe my UK experience built up my self-esteem and improved my networking and relationship building skills. I have learnt to leverage various networks to get things done.
My advice to anyone seeking study destinations is to consider the UK first because education in the UK is not just about the academics, you get to immerse yourself in diverse cultures while learning and teaching others about your realities in a warming and engaging environment. I would totally encourage my children to take the opportunity of a UK study experience.
'My advice to anyone seeking study destinations is to consider the UK first.'
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