21st October 2021
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I know Marzuq as a political and social commentator and I am happy that I follow him on social media. This time, he is not talking about politics in Nigeria but about a side of him many people don’t know – his academic experience in the UK. His advice on getting scholarships is very practical and hands-on. You would enjoy and gain a lot by reading this interview.

Please tell us about yourself  

I am Marzuq Abubakar Ungogo. I am 28-year-old academic, veterinary doctor, and writer from Kano state, Nigeria. I hold Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and MSc. Clinical Pharmacology degrees from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Glasgow respectively. I work as lecturer (on study leave) with Ahmadu Bello University and I am currently pursuing a PhD in the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.

What motivated you to leave Nigeria to study abroad?

Pursuit for excellence and adventure. I have always wanted to study in a world class university and the United Kingdom (UK) has many. Education in itself is empowering, and I believe it is even more uplifting when it is achieved in the best environment possible. The adventurous side of me loves going to new places and meeting new people. During my MSc, I made so many friends from all over the world and visited more than 15 UK cities.

In your opinion, what are the major differences between studying in Nigeria and the UK?

The education system has a much more participatory approach in the UK. The teachers and lecturers are friendlier. Another thing you find in the UK that is a bit difficult in Nigeria is availability of modern tools for learning and research for every student.

How do you cope with challenges encountered?

Of course, it was difficult in the beginning. There were challenges ranging from culture shock to weather as well as an education system that expects so much from the student. I cultivated three habits; open mindedness, readiness to learn and focus. These imbue in me some confidence to catch up with the standard gap and to enjoy my stay miles away from home.

Inducted as a Veterinary Doctor

How can Nigerian/African students access funding for study? Please tell us about your experience.

For a Nigerian seeking for opportunities, I think there are 3 avenues; Nigerian government agencies such NLNG, PTDF, NNDC, NITDA, TETFUND all offer full scholarship for studies in the UK and other countries. Another category includes scholarship offered by foreign governments through bilateral agreement with Nigeria or independently, these include Commonwealth Scholarship offered by the UK government; DAAD by the German government and so on. There are also scholarships offered by individual foreign universities and research centers for exceptional international students.

It is important that an aspiring international student set out from the beginning the countries, the courses he wants to study, and the universities then search for funding opportunities. For PhD applicants, finding a supervisor with your research interest is the most important thing, and in many cases some supervisors have grants and can offer you studentship with stipends. Opportunities can be searched for on websites like findaphd.com or findamasters.com.  Once you do that, you will end up with few universities and schemes you want to pursue, and you will have time to make your application very attractive. Focus is very important because most opportunities require some time-consuming application and other students all over the world are competing for similar opportunity. A badly written application, personal statement or research proposal will soon end up in the bin.

Another thing that can boost one’s opportunity, apart from grades/class of degrees are certifications such as English Language tests (IELTS/TOEFL) and GRE. For most universities in the USA and Canada, GRE is an important requirement.

My story is simple. Fueled by passion and faith, I applied for the prestigious NLNG Postgraduate scholarship after my first degree and competed with thousands of Nigerians. To God be the glory, I was longlisted for an exam and later shortlisted for an interview, a while later I received a congratulatory email. This enabled me studied an MSc here in the UK and graduated with a Distinction. After returning home and working for a year, I applied for a handful of PhD opportunities and was lucky to get 2, and I accepted the PTDF scholarship to fund a PhD here in University of Glasgow. I think my good undergraduate CGPA might have helped in increasing my chances of getting the MSc scholarship. In the same vein, the Distinction I have earned for the MSc might have supported my application for a PhD scholarship. It is worthy to state that I have received so many rejection letters.

At the University of Glasgow

What’s your advice to students in Nigeria who have ambitions of studying abroad?

For those in school, they should know that class of degree is very important and should work hard to achieve a first class or at least 2:1. CGPA is very important! Be determined and persistent, many people don’t win scholarship on first attempt. Be rigorous in your applications and if possible work hard and earn great IELTS/TOEFL and GRE scores to support your application. Lastly, get a mentor, someone that has been there, it will save you a lot of mistakes.

Do you think Brexit will affect Nigerian students coming to study in the UK? If yes, how?

For now, I think nothing tangible has been observed by anyone. However, the whole Brexit thing may likely be reconsidered by Britons. On the other hand, there are some efforts being made to attract more international students to the UK including post-study visa.

Thanks for your time.

Read about Dr Pessu’s experience in the UK and his advice on obtaining scholarships

Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com