Meeting 120 Irish Aid Fellows from 17 countries

Yesterday, September 21, 2019, was the official orientation and welcome for the 2019 Ireland’s Fellowship Programme. Fellows from 17 countries from Africa, Middle East and Asia assembled for the official orientation, organised by the Government of Ireland – through Irish Aid (sponsors) and International Council for International Students (ICOS) – the implementing agency. I think these fellows are from countries in which the Republic of Ireland has its embassies and consulates.

Since we applied for the fellowship last year, I only knew fellows from Uganda and Rwanda, since we did some activities together with them. The last day we met was at the pre-departure orientation, at the Ambassador’s residence in Kampala.

When it came to travel, we traveled differently, and travel was timed with the orientation at the university in which you were admitted. All the fellows, therefore, even those from the same country, travelled on different days & different flights.

The day was special because it was the first time all the fellows from 17 countries were meeting. People from different countries, different universities in Ireland gathered in one hotel, one hall.

For me, the highlight of the day was meeting and interacting with fellows from Palestine and Vietnam. You know, with all the challenges that Palestinians face in their country (including hostility from the Israel which we fantasize about), they are very resilient people, and not afraid to take a stand to support their country (or rather nation).

While growing up, I watched a lot of movies – you remember America versus Vietnam kind of movies, it was nice hearing and listening to them. They are focused, patriotic and loyal to their country (you know how they are depicted in the movies). Of course, they looked all the same – both height and faces. It’s difficult to tell who is who. But I recall from my Political Education class (in secondary school – before it was scrapped for obvious reasons) that monolithic nations (countries that evolve from one dynasty /emperor) are very closed societies and tend to marry from their own relatives – which makes them look very similar to each other. All in all, they were amazing.

Events like these are meant to mainly disseminate information and accord you some kind “official welcome”. What liked most was the presentation “Becoming a Student in Ireland,” presented by Dr. Padraig Wims of University College Dublin. And the perspectives of the finishing fellows. It was very insightful. That being said, I believe that however much somebody tells you about something, your experience is mostly going to be different. And so, most times you just have to live on and let things unfold for you.

For now, I am part of the about 3,300 international students at University College Cork, Ireland from 144 countries. Broadly, this number is part of the bigger 17,000 international students – about 20% of the student population (most of them postgraduate) studying in Ireland. The diversity of huge. This year I have been quite fortunate to have met people from all corners of the world – first during the Mandela Washington Fellowship (June and August) and then now with Ireland Fellowship programme – which will enable me to attain highly regarded European postgraduate education.

With the arrival, university and Irish Aid orientations over, I now look forward to settling into the real academics – reading, lectures, assignments and lab sessions.  Nothing more. End.

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