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Ukamaka Ifedi-Okonkwo Msc. Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care 2019-2020; Chevening Scholar2020

Ukamaka Ifedi-Okonkwo's Photo

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?

I was attracted to the University of Southampton because of its impressive academic standing and global reputation for research and innovation. It is acknowledged as being among the top 15 universities in the UK and also ranked one of the 100 best universities in the world.

Southampton city is blessed with top tourism and cultural attractions which unveil history and art in the UK such as the Solent Sky Museum, Sea City Museum with exhibits from the Titanic, and Southampton City Art Gallery.

What is it like studying here?

I had the experience of interacting and networking with students from various countries. The diversity creates opportunity for extensive knowledge sharing.

The Chevening Scholarship, sponsored by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, enabled me to study at one of the world’s best universities. Southampton has an impressive academic standing and global reputation for research and innovation, has a culture of encouraging students in critical thinking, and its academic programme motivates students to generate new ideas and support independent learning skills to increase their confidence – creating a good foundation for future leaders and decision makers. “It was a big challenge for me to return to education after more than 12 years, but, with determination, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, left my family and pursued my academic dream. I am proud of the academic excellence and the widened understanding of the UK healthcare system I have achieved during my time at Southampton.

What is the most inspiring or insightful thing you have learnt or discovered in your time at Southampton?

The culture of encouraging students in critical thinking is highly commendable. The academic program motivates students to generate new ideas and also supports independent learning skills which increase confidence. This model of learning creates a good foundation for future leaders and decision makers.

Please tell us about a moment when you learnt something at Southampton, which reinforced or changed your mind about your direction in life.

The Covid-19 situation resulted in restrictions of face- to-face interaction but revealed the power of online audio-virtual learning. I benefited from web conferences and meetings conducted during the period of lockdown, some of which averted travel cost to another cities.

How do you rate the study facilities at the University?

University of Southampton has modern and easily accessible facilities for both staff and students. The Hartley Library provides a conducive environment for learning, with rich archived materials for various academic fields. As an international student, I gained a lot of support from the university staff who mentor students on academic writing and research skills.

Have you undertaken any work placements, collaborations with industry, internships, studying abroad or volunteering? How have these enhanced your experience?

I work with a healthcare agency in the community and at the NHS Southampton Hospital. I desired to gain wide range of understanding on UK healthcare system, from the basic primary care. These experiences will certainly broaden my comparative view of healthcare systems.

What are you most proud of from your time at Southampton so far? (This could be social or academic)

I am most proud of the academic excellence I achieved during my time at the university. It was a big challenge for me to return to school after over 12 years. With determination, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, left my family and pursue the academic dream. I knew the outcome would be for my career growth and an opportunity to serve in the global health care system. I am glad I took the decision.

What do you think you have gained from your studies that you wouldn’t have developed without them?

I have gained tremendous confidence required as a leader. As a graduate of MSc. Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care, I have been equipped with modern approaches to leadership, starting with self-leadership to leading teams and systems.

With my vast experience in leadership positions and academic knowledge, I am optimistic to deliver excellently in managing people and projects.

Have you undertaken any extracurricular activities? How have they enhanced your experience?

I joined some society groups but could not engage actively. The 1-year program flew away like the wind before I knew it. However, I volunteered with Archers Project on scavenger hunting of fund and relief materials for homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield. My team and I rallied around the city centre, raised so many materials and was declared winner of the hunt.

What will you do with your degree/research after you have finished your studies?

My degree will help me to advance to higher leadership responsibilities and positions in diverse fields of healthcare.

Who will you keep in touch with from Southampton once you graduate and why?

I will definitely keep in touch with my supervisor and some of my lecturers. I hope to return to the UK for my PhD program, and I’d need all their support and guidance.

What will you miss the most about being at Southampton once you have finished your studies?

I will really miss my friends and colleagues. I will also miss the UK unpredictable weather.

What has been the hardest aspect of studying in another country? How have you overcome the challenges?

One of the biggest challenges of studying abroad was adjusting to the cultural differences. The feeling of being a stranger and coping with the unfamiliar environment was my initial challenge. As time passed, I made friends, engaged in tours and learned more about the country which helped me to adjust to the increasing cultural norms in the UK.

How has the University helped you to adjust to living and studying in a different country?

University Student Service Centre provides support on visa, accommodation as well as financial and healthcare advice, which I found helpful as an international student. There are also employability services and career fairs to assist students on career planning.

What is the name of the scholarship or bursary you have received?

Chevening Scholarship.

What has the funding allowed you to do/experience that you may not have experienced otherwise?

The prestigious Chevening scholarship sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom enabled me to study in one of the world’s best universities. The Chevening community creates an exclusive platform to network and interact with world leaders and influencers.

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