The RoundPier community is a global one and our new Spotlight covers Barrington Chungulo, an African student who now calls Turkey home. He is pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree on a full scholarship at Eskişehir Osmangazi University. Barrington is also hoping to make a name for himself in the world of education philanthropy. He has become heavily involved with volunteering and provides a great example of how one can have impact in a short period of time. For those hoping to get in contact with Barrington, he’ll be contributing to the Education in Africa group on RoundPier.
RP: Barrington, why did you decide to study abroad?
BC: Many of the reasons why I decided to study abroad were about personal expansion. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, develop cultural sensitivity, adapt to globalization, boost my self-confidence, gain independence, and meet new people from all over the world. It also helped that I earned a scholarship as well.
RP: Tell us a little bit more how you ended up in Turkey.
BC: I found researching universities to attend and applying for scholarships to be strenuous endeavors. I experienced pain, after failures and successes, until it pained no more. Just like the Germany philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, eloquently said, ‘‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.’’
I first applied for the Education USA (EdUSA) program at the American Embassy in Zambia; my application was unsuccessful. I then applied for the government scholarships to study in China, Russia, Algeria, and India at the local Bursaries Committee. However, my application drew a blank on six occasions. The Bursaries Committee rejected me for two consecutive years.
After unsuccessfully trying to apply through government programs and scholarships, I started applying to schools for admission and scholarship offers directly. To quote Albert Einstein, ‘‘I am thankful for all those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I did it myself.”
In March 2017, I once again applied for the Türkiye Bursları Scholarships and to study in Turkey. I had applied and was not selected in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, over 112,000 students applied, of which 5,000 were selected. This time around I was called for the interviews. They were held at the Turkish Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia and I was fortunate enough to win the scholarship.
‘‘If you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later, you are gonna get a haircut.’’ – Unknown
RP: Your journey is certainly unique, while US and UK are known to host many international students, Turkish universities aren’t on most people’s list. How do you find life in Turkey? What are some recommendations you have for students interested in pursuing a degree in Turkey?
BC: Life is beautiful in Turkey. I originally felt excited about Turkey when I was researching and applying. Now being here, I have fallen in love with its culture. Turkey is one of the two countries that have land both in Asia and Europe. This enables Turkey to reflect diverse cultures and experiences. It is also one of the fastest growing economies, the 6th in Europe and 16th largest economy in the world.
I recommend Turkey for higher education because of its friendly environment and rich diversity. Its universities provide high standards of education, internationally recognized degrees, and modern campuses with outstanding facilities. As an international student, I get to encounter with a rich culture, deep-rooted history, and unique nature. Turkey is one of the best choices for education with its reasonable cost of living and its hospitable people.
RP: We also want to talk about your philanthropic activities and how you help local communities in Zambia and beyond.
BC: I want to be an engineer, as well as a philanthropist. This may sound weird, but I believe I have a calling to get into philanthropy.
It started when I was part of the youths that were organized by the International Care Trust board. We were tasked with coming up with creative solutions for local problems in Chibolya Extension. One of the major problems we tried finding solutions for was the lack of water. I ended up helping by being part of the group coming up with a solution and also physically digging water pipe holes. Today, every house in Chibolya Extension has a tap, with sanitized water provided by the Chibolya Water Trust.
I worked as the Youths Program Coordinator in Lusaka Province for a local, NGO called Revive the Vulnerable Children Foundation. I was ultimately appointed as the Global Youth Ambassador Fellow, representing Zambia, for an international NGO called the Reach-Out Integrated Africa (ROI Africa). ROI Africa is designed to unify messages in relation to the African development agenda. It was while serving as an ambassador at this organization that I came up with an idea of forming my own community service project called The Dream Factory, which mainly deals with children’s health and education with a mission of transforming dreamers into visionaries (more about this in my RoundPier posts).
In August 2017, I was honored to be among the first batch of five ambassadors from different African countries, who were awarded the Certificates of Service by ROI Africa. I also earned two YALI Network (Young African Leaders Initiative Network) certificates, a network started by the former U.S President, Barrack Obama.
It is my belief that in a knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity. Education is also the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace. I want to use my education and commitment to others to become more involved to philanthropic initiatives throughout my life.
RP: Finally, what are your own dreams and plans going forward? What advice would like to offer to young students on the African continent?
BC: Whoop! First of all, I am so grateful for every little thing I have. Glory be to God. I am studying the field of study I have always wanted to; I am studying abroad as I wanted to; and I am on a full scholarship. I feel like I’m dreaming.
My plans going forward? (laughs). I don’t plan. I stopped planning a long time ago. That is because whenever I planned, or came up with a plan, things never used to happen as planned. Thus, I just follow my gut.
I know myself and I know who I want to become. It is important to have self-confidence and ignore what others think of you and your plans. When people look down on you, when they expect less from you, when they say negative things about you, when they doubt you, just know that they are all an audience waiting to see you succeed.
The advice I can give not only to young students but also to all the young dreamers out there, is to ask themselves only one simple question, ‘‘What do you want to become?’’ A lot of young people fail to answer that question. Once you answer that question and work on overcoming the obstacles that might come in your way, you will become whoever you want to become.
All the great people in history never gave up. Why should you? I believe Africa’s greatest resource is not gold or oil. It’s the brains of our young people like you.