Written by Beryl Atieno
2018/19 African Graduate Scholar, UCL
Msc. Global Health and Development
I cannot leave London without narrating the experiences and mentioning the people who made an impact on my life. I got an award letter in June 2018 confirming my scholarship to study MSc. Global Health and Development at UCL. Deep down in my heart, I was ready to leave the bank anytime to pursue my own goals. But God had a purpose of telling me to go and study instead of doing business. This was backed up by my uncle who encouraged me to further my studies and apply for a scholarship. My mum, on the other hand, accepted to stay with my kids while I was away.
Leaving employment and family to go to a faraway land was not an easy decision. I got discouragement here and there but my mind was made up, I was ready to pursue my purpose. It was the greatest risk of my life. OG Mandino wrote in his book of the greatest salesman in the world that if you are not willing to risk, you cannot grow and if you cannot grow, you cannot be happy, and if you are not happy what else is remaining in this world. I was in that stage that I was not growing as a person. I took that leap of faith and decided to get out of my comfort zone. I had doubts about my decision then one evening after I’ve just landed in London, I read a post by Issac Mwaura who was giving his testimony after leaving his job in the foreign land to come to settle back in Kenya with his family. Isaac recommended a book Failing Forward by John C Maxwell. I went bought the book, actually, it was an interesting read that I managed to finish within one week despite my classes and busy schedule. From there on, I developed a positive mindset towards my decision and I came up with four objectives. My goal was to achieve these objectives before leaving the great land. Throughout my stay in London, I was driven with those four objectives which were:
1. To have my MSc. Paper
2. To grow my professional and social networks.
3. To improve economically and achieve one big life goal out of staying in London.
4. To tour Europe countries and other parts of the United Kingdom.
International Students House (ISH) made the stay in London a living paradise. Our work was just to study and network. For the love of family and togetherness, we formed a small nuclear family with my friends and an extended family with other members of ISH. We had the same scholarship with my nuclear family members (African Graduate Scholarship). Twambo, Eche, Sabina and I (we named ourselves the four musketeers). We had a close-knit relationship that most people were wondering how we blended and we came from different backgrounds and countries. We even have our WhatsApp group that we discuss family affairs. We would be together from morning during breakfast, walking to class, during lunch hour, walking back to ISH and having dinner together. We formed our own study group and we would consult each other whenever an issue arose. We had each other’s back and none of us would suffer.
Twambo the Zambian queen was the carefree type. She was our entertainer with a free spirit. Our walks, talks and meals moments would be dull without her. Twambo could even make a joke out of getting low marks in the exam and we would all laugh it off. We would console ourselves that this education is not for the thirties and promised ourselves to get better grades in the next paper. She easily got along with all of us. She was our binding factor. Eche our only brother from Nigeria was the peacemaker who brought harmony to the group. As a family, disagreements were bound to happen but he managed to bring the family together.
Sabina nya ugenya was the prefect and cautious one. She would see the other side in any situation which would make us have second thoughts. I was the inspiring one. I would give them ideas and encourage them to think beyond the MSc paper. Twambo and I would get along when talking about our kid(s) and the people we love. We also loved investment and thinking outside the box. She was also my next-door neighbour. Whenever we felt so low and missed our kid(s), we would console each other and mark our calendars to the travelling dates. Sometimes we would stay late into the night just talking and appreciating the other side of the coin. On the other hand, Sabina and Eche would mostly be talking about their bible study group. There were days just meant for talking about our families back at home. Sabina would mention the brother, Eche his elder brother, Twambo would talk about her father and I would not fail to mention my mother. We all had a clear picture of how our families looked like and I think that kept us going. We would support each other to the point of referring in case of any opportunity. We all did our part-time jobs in the same organisation.
On the other hand, I will not fail to mention about my extended family. The lady from the Kenyan highlands who was like my little sister. Lily and I shared almost everything. Apart from books, we loved travelling, the church, outdoor activities and night outs. Lily was the patient one and very disciplined. Lily knew I was slow in preparation and getting ready. Every Sabbath, she would wake me up at 8 am to remind me that the divine service is starting at 10.30 am. We should be ready for breakfast by 9.30 am and leave ISH by 10 am. In the first two months in London, we used to do a 30 minutes marathon to church (I thought we were on ineos challenge ??). The luo in me had to devise for ways of getting to church without walking. Surprisingly, the bus ride to church was fifteen minutes only. I remember the morning we went to Paris, lily woke me up at 3 am to prepare to avoid missing the bus. Outside books, life would be boring without Lily. Whenever I had issues or stranded, lily would be the first in my call list. And voila the issues were sorted. We are told that if the first five people in your call list cannot solve your problem, then those are not your friends.
The other extended family member is Getrud the magufuli princess. Getrud is a smart, go-getter with a positive attitude towards life. I thought I surpassed my limits but Getrud outdid me. If you want to succeed in life, follow Getrud. She would do the impossible with so much enthusiasm. If I would have stayed with Getrud for one more year, I would have built an empire. During the positive attitude moments, we would develop and discuss our research question framework. We would discuss business and investments. Our plans for the future and how to be Street smart. Getrud taught me that even a pound matters and we should be using buses in London instead of the underground tube. That strategy worked for me, at the end of the day I realized the much I’ve saved. Getrud, when I’m low, I wish for your self-confidence and enthusiasm.
Other ISH family members who made my stay in London interesting are Anando, Muna, Jacqueline, Mariam and Kennedy. Breakfast and dinner moments would be boring in that table without them. We had interesting conversations and would learn from different cultures, their food, dressing and ways of living.
Scholars like Yvonne my sister from Mombasa. Yvonne is a person I would go to in case I’m in a dilemma. I knew she would tell me the truth. Yvonne puts everything in black and white. Lily my Kagame queen who would come at a point when I did not want to share with anyone. Surprisingly, I would call her late into the night and we talk for hours. I felt relieved after that. Other scholars including Sonya, Nuru and Barbra. The lunch hour talks would be boring without you. London lifestyle as a student living in ISH is different from staying in London as a normal citizen. That is how the reality checks in. I thank God I met Edith nya homabay who made the outside life to be bearable and comfortable. We knew each other for a short time which developed into a great friendship. Edith may your bucket overflow with God’s blessings.
London was interesting, I don’t regret the decision I made in September, 2018. I’ve grown wholly as a person intellectually, socially, economically and spiritually. I have come back with my Msc paper. I met new friends in both my professional and social networks. I have achieved the life goal that was in my mind before I went to London. I have travelled across five Europe countries (France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium) and other parts of the UK. The exploring nature in me was reborn. To succeed in London you have to be self-discipline and learn to stay with anyone. I think that is the unique attribute I got from there.
Special thanks go to my family members and my house manager. Without their support, I wouldn’t have that peace of mind. My two special friends who gave me emotional stability and how to think straight to achieve my goals. My former colleagues and friends in Kenya. Those WhatsApp chats and calls kept me sane. At least I was updated in what was happening in Kenya, business, politics and job markets. Above all, I thank God for the gift of life, health, protection (my kids and I) and the gift of knowledge, patience and understanding. Without God, London would be unbearable.
I pray for God’s guidance and blessings in 2020. For this is my year of restoration and double blessings. My verse still holds Exodus 33:15. May the good Lord go ahead of me in all my plans and my ways. Amen and Amen.