A rare privilege that cannot be overemphasized is the opportunity to move across continents to gain and glean experience in my field of study amidst seeing life and people in another perspective.
I am privileged to be a part of the 2021 Erasmus mobility program. It is a life-changing opportunity that has broadened my horizon and expanded my research frontiers to see life and people from differently.
The journey started on the 8th of July when I left king Shaka airport for Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport Madrid. On arriving at Madrid, having gone through the rigor of language barrier, we (myself and Sibiya, a fellow grant holder from DUT) eventually got on a train that connected us to the ones that took us to Valladolid, our final destination. The estimated time for the journey was a maximum of two hours, but we got to Valladolid eventually after about four hours because we missed our way.
On the 12th of February, I was scheduled for an appointment at the international office alongside other students, where we were briefed on the pros and cons of the program alongside our stay in the city. The ambiance and serenity of the city and the people I met were mindblowing; it was nothing short of expectations.
Lectures officially started on the 15th Of February. The school of Industrial Engineering used the first day of lecture to welcome us into the school with further details of the program, guided us on the timetable structure and how to navigate our way to the lecture rooms.
I had barely used an hour in the lecture room when I realized that the course of my career was set to change forever with this amazing opportunity. From the organization in the lecture notes, presentation and delivery of lectures to structures set in place to keep all covid-19 rules such as contact tracing mechanism to the lovely people around always ready to help, I could only be grateful for the life-changing experience I was about to begin.
My gratitude would go first to my home institution: Durban University of Technology; firstly, for counting me worthy of the scholarship despite being an international student and secondly for providing all necessary supports to the best of her capacity. From the ever-listening ear of the international officer (Ms. Carol) to the provision of emergency health insurance, to catering for the transportation to and fro to Johannesburg for visa application and also the regular checkups even while in Spain.
As time went by, I got busier with the workload from different lectures, assignments, and presentations. During one of the lectures for the module titled “simulation,” I became concerned for my continent Africa seeing she was not mentioned in all the numerous analyses and statistics presented on the level of innovations, future plans and sustainable/environmental structures in place in several nations of the earth (though essentially European countries).
This often time saddens my heart as my question was always: where is Africa in all of these. Finally, Africa came up in the class twice, with the first being when a wastewater treatment method invented in UCT some years ago, and the other time was when a method was said to be more suitable for Africa due to a high number of temperate region.
In my curiosity, I poured out my dissatisfaction with Africa’s absence in the statistics to my favorite lecturer, Prof. Raul, in one of our conversations. He brought clarity to my concern and reminded that one of the purposes of the mobility program is to bridge the knowledge gap by providing students from member university the opportunity to gain more experience to make life better wherever they find themselves.
He further encouraged saying you can get to whatever height you desire and even the change a perceived less developed country requires to become an advanced country. I received this comment as a challenge and purposed in my heart to be diligent, dedicated, and never be the limiting factor for my greatest feat.
Having finished the Spanish exam and other pending assignments and reports by May ending, I was left to produce and defend a comprehensive master’s thesis within five weeks. It was the toughest period of the program for me because a number of documents I am to use for my work were written in Spanish. One would have thought that it shouldn’t be a problem seeing that a document can be translated using google translator. However, the reverse was the case as the translation put the entire document in disarray and merged tables with several columns into one column. This left me with no option than to translate the documents page by page. This took about four weeks to complete with the help of my husband (Dr D.C Akintayo). Amid the rigour of translation, I had to source for data, simulate analysis and also write the other part of the thesis simultaneously.
In all, I am grateful to the University of Valladolid for the conducive learning environment, though there were ups and downs, different teaching and communication style; the entire journey was a roller coaster of unlearning, learning, and relearning. I am grateful for every lecturer who contributed to my growth, widened my horizon, and helped me change perspective and see life differently.
Muchas Gracias DUT por la opotunidad!!!!