Akinlolu is Nigerian and currently studying a MBA at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin, Germany.
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My name is Ayo-Vaughan Akinlolu , I am 28 years old, from Ogun state south-west Nigeria. I studied mechanical engineering at Covenant University in Nigeria, before I started my Master’s in Business Management here at ESMT (The European School of Management and Technology) in Berlin.
What were your experiences of studying in Nigeria?
In Nigeria studying mechanical engineering it is a bit more theoretical than practical. There is a lot more in class learning of the theory of what is being done and the concept, rather than going to the application of it. That is for me, if I want to contrast studying in Nigeria against my MBA here, there is a lot more emphasis on not just understanding where things are from, but the application of them and how they can be used in real situations with real businesses cases that we use a lot of. Against just understanding ‘this is a machine, this is the history of it, these are the calculations around it.’
It is a more business oriented and focused approach of learning which is a breath of fresh air, so you aren’t just looking at the concepts for the sake of concepts. That’s one of the main differences with education here and back home in Nigeria.
How easy was it for you to research scholarships?
To answer that question, I have to talk about something else – I have a younger sister who attended ESMT, she did the Master’s Business Management programme a few years ago. In directly she was helpful in the research, I was looking at getting into an MBA, maybe not now I was thinking about it in a few years from now. She had called me and told me a lot about the programme, about ESMT, then about the Kofi Annan scholarship and what it takes to come here. Once I knew about the scholarship it was easier to do the research. Then I had to be careful about – is the programme, both ESMT’s programme and the scholarship, match me as an individual? Scholarships also tend to look for different profiles, do I match the profile they are looking for? So, I had to take a few weeks and months to research not just the Kofi Annan scholarship but all the scholarships' available as I knew that just because my sister had informed me about the scholarship it didn’t mean I would be able to come here. It took a bit of time and I had to do some research, but it wasn’t too hard with the use of the internet.
What inspired you to look for a scholarship?
The inspiration was more education – obviously there is the natural benefit of getting financial help. Getting an MBA anyway isn’t cheap but getting a scholarship that allows you to not worry about finances because the Kofi Annan scholarship not only covers tuition, but it also gives you monthly stipend that allows you to not worry about your monthly expenses while you are studying. The combination of those two things eased a lot of financial stress from me. That was one major inspiration for me to get a scholarship, the other things is the recognition. I know there is a pool of people that would apply for scholarship of this nature. To be able to stand out from the rest and get a scholarship that allows me to come and study in this way, looking at what the Kofi Annan scholarship was really looking at, was a big inspiration for me seeing that it did not just target Africa but a number of regions across the world. To still be shortlisted among the few people that got it was recognition for me to show me that a lot of things I had been pushing in my work – academically and non-academically – had been coming to recognition.
What advice would you give to younger students who are about to start researching for a scholarship?
When it comes to advice for younger students who want to get a scholarship; the one thing I tend to let them know is, because I do get this question from time to time is – don't just research to get a scholarship for the sake of getting a scholarship. Scholarship organisations know what they are looking for and the candidates they are looking for. Search for the programme you want to do that really talks about what you want to do in the future and then look for scholarships that match – be it nationality, be in background, be it your social interaction you have done before, be it leadership, - there are usually scholarships which are more tailored to what you are looking for. Applying to scholarships for the sake of scholarships is not really going to help. The first advice would be – know what you want, find scholarships that agree with your personality and then schools that can also support you to achieve what you aspire to do in the future.
What is your experience of studying at a university outside of sub-Saharan Africa?
My experience of studying outside of SSA has really been mainly about the international mix. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to ESMT is that over 90% of the class is international. That is different countries, my MBA class is 52 people with close to 20 nationalities. It allows me to not just have experience from one particular background, but I can talk to people from South America, Asia, North America and see how their experiences mix with what I am doing. Traditionally back home you have people from the same area of Nigeria, or Nigeria as a whole. There is a certain commonality of ideology. Being here allows me to tap into ideologies and experiences of people from different backgrounds. The second thing is the professors that we have under the faculty here. There is a lot of emphasis on having top tier faculty and professors, using real life business cases to be able to teach the concept they are looking at. It is not just the theory of things but also the practical of ok, this theory that we have talked about was applied by this person in this context. Then we can look at it from that particular perspective which makes it more tangible. Those two things are very much contrasting when it comes to studying outside of SSA.
What are your aspirations for the future?
Having a background in start-ups, I have started two of my own companies before, my aspirations for the future would be to immediately be able to understand the business that is run in Berlin and Europe. I am looking to get into management and strategy within Berlin in the start-up scene. I want to be able to understand how people conduct business in Berlin and Europe and contrast that to my prior experience in Africa. Hopefully in the long run I will be able to combine elements of both places and provide solutions that will allow local African companies and entrepreneurs to expand their businesses to even better practices that might incorporate different things from other places. Those are the things I am looking at doing and hopefully it all goes good!