From Kenya to Surrey

An insight into life at Surrey from a current Kenyan student

Professional Certification in UK….Scholars opportunity

Scholar beware…..”Every course studied in the UK has a professional body backing and certifying it…the achievement of this certification at whichever level is value adding to any scholar and to any employer….”

 

Not long ago, I got a chance to talk to a friend interested in studying Energy Economics course at Masters level in the UK. Digging deep into the university archives and learning more about my career, an interesting thing propped up. Many scholars who get an opportunity to study in UK get consumed into the only very courses that they study, and forget one huge opportunity that the UK offers, the one opportunity that many employers value in the dynamic field where lots of people vying for the same job have similar qualification. Assuming that an advert is put across for a certain job, and five of the potential employees have similar qualifications, what is it that will differentiate one candidate from the rest? I call this the employer-employee dilemma.

 

…..the UK plays hosts to a number of prestigious professional certification bodies with a world class reputation. At least every course offered in UK has a professional certification that solves the potential employer and employees’ dilemma. So, to every scholar, especially international students, consider this….

Every scholar studying in UK has an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the rest, first by the prestige the UK education provides, the exposure and the opportunities that come with it, the networking opportunities, the many friends et al. But one thing that being in UK enables one to have is an opportunity to access the many professional bodies spanning the many careers around the world.

Energy examples

 

Think of the Energy Economists (my field, the Energy Institute offers lots of professional development courses like Chartered Energy Manager certification), think of the Safety and Engineering students have an opportunity to be certified by NEBOSH, one of the most prestigious health and safety professional bodies with a worldwide reputation and with great workings in UK, all the social scientists have all the prestigious certification bodies around to check out for their professional certification, all the Engineering students have nothing to complain about given the UK position in world class Engineering works, which are made possible by enhanced standards that value professionalism etc.

NEBOSH AccreditedThe value of these qualifications go a long way in creating a niche that solves many employers dilemma.  I have worked in the oil and gas sector for five years and    in this sector, additional professional qualifications coupled together with experience goes a long way in enhancing ones career. UK fortunately hosts a number of the bodies that offer this professional developments, come to think of any extra professional achievement you have ever wished for, then just google for a body that offers that in UK, you will definitely find one.

To every scholar in the UK, and especially for the international scholars, professional qualifications achievement is a route you may consider taking, an enhancement to your parent qualification here in UK, and a huge boost to your career growth.  In the meantime, my Chevening journey continues, my journey towards being a Chartered Energy Manager continues and in a few months….this will be done. Consider what I told you….

 

 

 

 

….Chevening Scholars Relay: the Red baton lands at Surrey

Chevening scholars at the University of Surrey had a great day, laying their hands on the red chevening scholars relay baton,one of the two relay batons making their round in universities around the UK.

...chevening scholars relay baton at SurreyThe red baton, first launched at Bangor university chevening scholarships award ceremony has been on the move ever since September 2016, reaching out to the many scholars in different universities around the UK. Dubbed the scholars relay, the baton represents Chevening scholarships aims to all the successful applicants and the very countries they represent. The relay seeks to encourage scholars to collaborate with one another and other stakeholders both in the UK and beyond, among the scholars themselves, network, travel widely and adopt an all inclusive approach to common goals.  The aim is to have the baton pass around the network safely, getting the scholars to develop conversations around one another within the network and beyond.

Chevening scholarship is ranked the very best scholarships around the world that enables all those who successfully go through the process of applying for it study among the most prestigious universities in the UK. It is a fully funded scholarship catering importantly for the tuition and upkeep for all the scholars besides providing a wide range of networking opportunities for the students. Having gone through the application process, i would boldly say it is not  a process for those who are not ready to work for it. A process that spans over six months from the day the advert is send out in August to the time the final award letter is obtained, it is an opportunity that opens doors to lots of opportunities that come with determination, hard work and readiness and willingness to go an extra mile.

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Every scholar or individual who holds the ambition of being a future leader, an influencer or a decision maker in whichever area they find themselves in, the scholarship could be the answer to your ambition. Applications for 2017/2018 are officially closed and most applicants have eceived feedback on whether they proceed to the next stage of the interview process or not. For those who have made it to the next stage of the application process, my advice is……”consider your upcoming interviews as an opportunity to have a conversation around your dreams and aspirations. You will be discussing these statements with a panel of people who have an interest in what you believe in and are there to help realize this dream. What you brought out in terms of your leadership, networking and career path is what you are going to talk about, therefore, take it as an opportunity to show the world what you have in store for it. Master your statements just like your dream, be ready to discuss this from each perspective and be confident about your dream and aspiration…”

For those who never made it to the next stage, it could have been due to a number of reasons, but most importantly, there are lots of chances still around you and having gone through the process the first time, the next one should be easy for you. My advice is….”do not plagiarize the statements made by others in your application process. Do not use other scholars statements as your own. This is illegal and unacceptable especially for scholars and future leaders. There is a host of scholars who would be willing to offer advice on the application processes especially on the chevening alumni  network home country face book pages. Getting in touch with them would be very helpful. Am glad to have supported one from Cambodia, and voila, she made it to the next stage, and am currently mentoring two have made to the next stage as well

..the scholars day....networking...collaborate....lead..For all the scholars who wish to study in the UK, the next chevening scholarships applications open in August 2017 for the 2018/2019 academic year. Besides Chevening scholarship, most UK universities have funding available for the various programs and checking it out with the various university pages would be more helpful.

img-20170221-wa0062For further help on the application process and more information on the scholarship, check out on www.chevening.org.uk and you can as well shout out and someone will be there for you. For more information on studying at the university where wonderful things happen, check out on the University of Surrey home page.

Return to home…..

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Right after the end of last semester exam, something happened. It was something i had looked forward to, for two months. Getting back home to my family. The anxiety that came with leaving them four months earlier was gone, but the new anxiety that came with looking forward to seeing them again was here with me. Interesting aspects of life, one gets anxious when leaving and still gets anxious while returning. 

The thought of it excited me, and the reality of it consumed me. Being away from your family for studies does a number of things to someone; you get to appreciate even more how important they are when around you, and you miss them even more, and you grow to love them even more…. guess. Through the assignments, the studies and lectures, and the trips and fun filled moments, when there seems to be no much energy left to move on, ones family provides the energy to move on. And this is what i had experienced i the four months.

I traveled to Kenya the very day i completed my exam. Once again, eight hours journey with a connection to Mombasa, one of Kenya’s biggest tourist destinations, was full of excitement and mixed expectations, but this time, of a surety of where i was going..home again. When i left Kenya four months earlier, the weather was fantastic, warm enough to make anyone who has experienced a winter to wish to stay there forever. This morning, as a alighted at Moi International airport  Mombasa at 6 am, i suddenly felt this funny excitement inside me. Under 24 hours, i had been in two different worlds. I had just said bye bye( though for a few days) to Guildford’s under 5 degrees weather and was now home, thousands of miles away, on Kenya’s coast, the famous Gateway to Kenya by sea, the home of coastlines that rival those in Seychelles(my opinion), now experiencing 30 degrees. What an exciting change…!! But then, this is what i love about our human systems, they adjust to any externality. 

My family, lovely Carol and little Theo were held up in traffic when i got to the airport….then i remembered that there was traffic and that the main road to the airport was under serious upgrade. So, i sat expectantly again drifting deep into thoughts of how fast time moved. Four months had elapsed since i left home to study at the University of Surrey, where wonderful things happen. It had been 120 days since i last saw my family. As we sat down for an evening of Mshikaki and kachumbari (local swahili delicacy), it was nostalgic, my childhood word came back, to see how my little boy had changed, and my little girl, Haddy had transformed. As i stayed home, maximizing every opportunity to be home, i realized how much toll studies had taken on me. Four months of serious studies seemed like it had been one year, and this i realized was not very interesting, but could be managed, and being home was quite a good way of unwinding. And as days went by, as family dinner moments passed by, and as homework moments  and toy times with my little boy wore on, and as feeding times with my little girl came and went, and as evening drives with Carol went on, so was my time to get back to Surrey fast approaching. But this time, from a different perspective. One, it was to be my final semester and i was sure of where i was going back to because i had returned from there. 

A better view of the tusks on main road into MombasaAs i i left early that morning back to Surrey, i knew much awaited me in the final semester of my program, but i knew i was ready, and am glad i had gone home to my people….. !!

 

Winter break and the reality of a scholar

 

fred-800x600I heard  the bells of winter break coming two weeks ago…..and i knew i would once again hear the curtains close down on this precious break and now its time folks.

Studying in a foreign country, in UK for that matter, with the immense pressure and responsibilities that come with them can be quite traumatizing and that is why the thought of a break sends chills of excitement down the spine of every scholar….However, the chills of excitement are mixed with anxiety over what awaits UK scholars after the break…the end of semester exams. Eleven weeks of, i would call it, hard work in reality but smart work eventually can take a great toll on anyone….pushing oneself beyond human elastic limits (if it exists) to beat assignments submission timelines, preparing for CATS (continuous assessment tests), working really smart to prove yourself and everyone else that you can do it, catching up with what others know that you seemingly knew before and you have forgotten( that is if you have been away from the classroom for quite sometime), thinking of the certain uncertainties that await you after the end of your studies…thinking of how your family is doing while you are away and many other anxious thoughts that seem to send one over the sun.

When you are over the sun, and one suggests a break, a winter break for a whooping three weeks, where you do not have to wake up early and get into the cold to board a bus or walk…oohhh no, walk to campus each day, then human nature, which by far correlates to students nature, dictates that you grab it with all the energy it requires. The only reality that student life never runs away from, a dilemma that now awaits me and you most likely is the E…X….A….M…..S. And that is why, i chose the library as a very close friend during this break, to test some hypothesis, that close friendship with the library equates to high grades, improved readiness for the assessments and reduced anxiety against the alternative that  the reverse is true. The ambiance in my lovely warm room at Hazel farm, i would say was incomparable to the cold outside, and this friendship was highly tested when for a whole week, i made no appearance in the library. Despite the fact that while living in university accommodation at Hazel farm, each student has an annual free bus pass allowing you to hop onto any of the selected bus company( for this year, Arriva bus) to any destination in Guildford, including the university library, my new winter break friend, the cold, the mist, rain and the fog that has characterized this break could make one think again; but as my life has been, a resolve had been made and it had to be respected…i had to make this friendship work.I await the fruits of this friendship with excitement come the results d-day.

But as i was saying, the winter break has proven to be quite invaluable and timely. Getting time off to handle some part time work was great. I call it the beauty of studying in the UK, as long as you can do something, there is something for you to do and make an extra coin). During Christmas period when everyone wants to take a break, several part time opportunities come up and grabbing some of them is ultimately helpful. Some realization about the UK, the value of an hour of work in the UK in terms of pay is way above where i come from.

But the break, the precious break is now over, and the reality sets in. Time to continue with the students core business, study and study, research and research, prove and prove, analyze and analyze, propose and propose, test and test and forecast knocks at the door. But am sure of one thing..that the anxieties i had at the beginning are now managed, and am ready for the next big one…the exam and my final semester as a post graduate student, and possibly my last year in the UK.

And for everyone back home and around the world considering post graduate studies and UK as a study destination, register for the upcoming University of Surrey webinars, in January and February. Go to www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate-webinars, register and get as much more information as possible before you make that one important decision.

The Beginning of the Beginnings…my journey to Surrey

captureIt was 3.30am in Mombasa…lovely moon was out there which seemed to say…. go well son, and come back soon. A decision had been made. My masters of science in Energy Economics and Policy program journey courtesy of the prestigious Chevening scholarship had just began. UK was the destination and University of Surrey was the place to be. The 15 minutes’ drive to the airport was silent but anxious. Nostalgia, the feeling I have nursed since I was a little boy gripped me when I finally said bye to my family…..I looked forward to seeing them again, which I still do to this moment. Aboard Kenya airways, several thoughts went through my head. Had I made the right decision? With the many stories of harsh weather, the complete opposite of my home town, Mombasa, would I really make it? What is the place like?  What was Guildford like and how are the people and the culture? My family, how would they cope without me? The anxiety consumed every bit of me….but a decision had been made, I had to do it. Hope of a better place, a better people, a better culture, a better university education and a great decision made slowly returned.

After 8 long and reflective hours, my flight landed at Heathrow airport. Hope and excitement overwhelmed me again. I walked through the immigration gates, picked up my heavy luggage. As I made my way out, my optimism was restored even more. Courtesy of the meet and greet arrangement by the university, I was ushered into the UK by the university ‘staff’ who I later came to realise they were student ambassadors who had given their time to ensure international students arrived and settled into their respective halls of residence with ease.  That was a calming moment for me; quite a special moment. Right at the airport were other international students going to the same Surrey. Meeting other students from other countries did it for me, I realised I was not alone. 30 minutes later, we were on our way to the university, the central and famous Austin Pearce building, where we were handed the keys to our respective rooms.

As the van snaked its way through the now quiet streets, thoughts of what had just transpired ran through my head, I had woken up in my hometown, Mombasa and now I was thousands of miles away, in a far off land where I was going to spend the night. The trail of thoughts were interrupted as the lead student ambassador, Anne welcomed us home…Hazel Farm. Just as I had expected, this was it…Hazel Farm itself is a fabulous story (to be shared ……)

As I rested on my bed that night, I made a resolve to be of help to anyone in my situation coming to the UK to study. The opportunity to be a student ambassador came just in time for me. One moment I look forward to, is being at the airport next welcoming fellow international students to this great country and this great university, assuring them of the beautiful moments ahead for them!

#Surrey; where wonderful things happen #where we meet and greet all our new students

 

 

 

 

Theory Meets Practice: Energy Economics students visit Apsely Bio-gas plant

My journey from Mombasa, Kenya to UK has been a fun filled one ( to be continued on a different note…….) but also really focused. Through out my academic and professional experiences, life has taught me to have a reason for making choices at all or certain times in life. For me, one of the choices i had to make while seeking an institution of higher learning in UK was one that respected the interface between the theory taught in lectures and the practical world each scholar seeks to be  apart of long after the scholar life is gone.  The university of Surrey is one choice am glad i made, because besides wonderful things happening here, Theory in all its forms meets practice.

University of Surrey Energy Economics and Technology students at Apsely Biogas Plant in Hampshire...where theory and practice met.

University of Surrey Energy Economics and Technology students at Apsely Biogas Plant in Hampshire…where theory and practice met.

On 23rd October 2016, the Energy Economics and technology class( of which i am proud to be) made a visit to Apsely farms, the second biggest bio-gas plant in UK. The plant, located in Hampshire is home to a state of the art investment in a facility that generates electricity and sells it to the national grid. The director, Mr. Henry, while explaining to us how the plant operates indicated that the bio-gas plant is fed with crops and in turn it produces manure and methane gas. The gas is blown into an engine which drives a generator. The electricity produced is fed into the national grid. The plant also produces natural gas, having cleaned the bio-gas, which is injected into the gas network while the manure known as digestate is stored in a vast lagoon and spread on the land in the spring, to fertilise the new crops.

Of great interest during the discussion was the subsidies that the UK government had put in place that supported such establishments. As developing energy experts, and with aspirations of adding value to my country’s renewable energy sector, the feed in tariff policy and the renewable energy obligations was an area of interest to us. The director made it clear that his business would not exist were it not for the energy subsidies in place; and that all renewable energy initiatives are made to be successful with the help of such subsidies.

While responding on the challenges facing the sector, he decried an inadequate policy making process, that critically left out some key players in the whole renewable energy loop; and as a word of advise to us, he advised us to critically evaluate all the aspects of any policy to be adopted before its rolled out….back to class and something to think about home; are the subsidies in energy sector back home operational?…that was was a day to write home about……a great thinking and practical day

#surreyuniversity#wherewondeerfulthingshappen#wheretheorymeetspractice

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