Monday 14 January 2019

How I got Two International Scholarships to the UK and Germany

How I got Two International Scholarships to the UK and Germany

Written by: Victor Agboga

Scholarships to the UK

I am Victor Agboga and recently graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with a master’s degree in African Development through the Standard Bank of Africa Derek Cooper Scholarship. I am currently undertaking another master’s programme in Global Governance at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. My second Master’s is funded through the Helmut-Schmidt-Programme (Public Policy and Good Governance, PPGG), a scholarship put together by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD). For my bachelor’s degree, I studied philosophy at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, an affiliate of Imo State University, Owerri

How I heard about the scholarships
My intention to undertake studies abroad stemmed from the admiration I had for my professors in my bachelor’s programme who had studied in different countries and spoke several international languages. After my bachelor’s degree, I worked for two years as a political correspondent for a media outfit in Lagos while I pondered about furthering my studies. It was while doing some research at work that I stumbled across an LSE alumni blog which recounted how generous the university was with scholarships especially for people from developing countries and low-income background. I immediately checked the university website and perused through the courses and scholarships offered. But the first major challenge was to meet the admissions requirement including studying for the IELTS and writing a convincing statement of purpose. My case was a bit peculiar because I was switching from philosophy to politics/economics, so I had to justify the switch and demonstrate my suitability to study international development (African development subfield).

Scholarships to the UK and Germany

In order not to put all my eggs in one basket, I began to look for other scholarships and eventually applied for the Chevening, Commonwealth, African Initiative for Governance and DAAD scholarships. I rewrote my statement of purpose and CV to fit into the particular requirements of the different scholarship-awarding institutes. Most of these scholarships were discovered through a simple google search.

 What is the Derek Cooper Standard Bank Scholarship?

The Derek Cooper Standard Bank Scholarship is sponsored by the Standard Bank of Africa (also known as Stanbic Bank) and provides funding for about 9 African students yearly at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and LSE. Applicants are meant to apply to these universities where they are nominated for the scholarship. In other words, Standard Bank does not accept any scholarship application, rather applicants go through the aforementioned universities and indicate their need for funding.
In my case, I went to the scholarship page of LSE and searched for scholarships available to Africans, and particularly Nigerian applicants. Kindly see the links below for more info on the Derek Cooper scholarship.

DAAD Scholarship

The German Academic Exchange Service gives thousands of scholarships annually to students from all over the world both in masters and Ph.D. levels.  You can check the DAAD database to find out the courses and scholarships you are eligible for.
On my part, I used the same materials that I submitted to LSE for my DAAD application with little adjustments. The same test scores (IELTS or TOEFL) can be used for several applications since the scores are globally recognized and can be used for a duration of 2 years.

Scholarships to Germany

How I managed two different scholarships in two different countries
I began studying at LSE in September 2017 and was rounding off my first term when I received an email from DAAD saying that I had been nominated for another scholarship. I replied the email by pointing out that I was already studying on a scholarship in London but they insisted that it did not affect my eligibility for the German scholarship. After perusing through the master’s course at the University of Duisburg-Essen, I accepted the offer since it did not clash with my studies in London. I left London for Germany two days after my final exams and began a three-month German language course in Cologne. While my masters in Germany is entirely taught in English, DAAD recommended and paid for a brief German language course (ranging from 6 months to 1 year) for all scholarship holders. I joggled writing my master’s dissertation for LSE with the language course in Cologne and flew between Germany and the UK often (about 1hr 30mins journey) to see my supervisor and make use of the library in London.

What does the scholarship(s) cover?
Both scholarships cover tuition and living allowance. The DAAD scholarship further covers health insurance, spousal and child support (for married scholars) as well as travel and research grants.

My experience so far…
I find myself fortunate to be a recipient of two international scholarships. My experiences at both universities have afforded me the opportunity to meet new people, broaden my network and acquire critical insights into issues pertaining to Global and African political economy. Studies have been both exciting and challenging in equal measures.

Scholarship Tips for other applicants

The need for perseverance cannot be overemphasized. Applicants should not lose hope in spite of rejections. I was rejected twice by the Chevening and AIG selection committees. AIG was particularly painful because I made it through to the final stage after scaling five rounds of selection which included computerized tests, essays, and a 4-hour interview. However, out of the 10 finalists, the University of Oxford was to select 5, and I was among those who were not selected. Looking back at that experience, I believe it made me a stronger applicant for other scholarships and in less than 5 months after the seemingly disappointing experience, I got the Derek Cooper Scholarship.
Also, a good undergraduate degree is required by most scholarship committees; i.e. a first class or a high 2-1. In addition, read samples of statement of purpose online and try to draw lessons from them. State clearly in your statement of purpose why you selected that course and that university and how these align with your future goals. Mention particular modules and professors in the university that you find interesting and how they can help you achieve your goals. It is also important to pay attention to the particular admission requirements of different universities. They might be similar but there are often some differences. For instance, some universities accept WAEC for proof of English proficiency while others require international standardised tests such as IELTS and TOEFL.

Finally, send out your application to different universities and scholarship committees as it would increase your chances. After all these, relax, pray, get useful work experience including volunteering and wait.

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