Victoria Aidoo from Ghana: How I won a UK scholarship
Victoria was one of three lucky winners on Ghana's reality TV show 'The Challenge'. After successfully completing various tasks set by a jury on national television, she won a scholarship for a Masters degree in the UK. Today, she is at the University of Salford studying for an MSc Databases & Web Based Systems. We caught up with her to find out about her experience so far...
Tell me about 'The Challenge' competition in Ghana – what made you want to do it?
'I had seen the very first series on TV, but that was the series where there was just one winner. This time, there was a prize package so I thought I would give it a go. Initially I didn’t think I would win, but when I got through to the quarter finals that changed.'
What do you think made you stand out from other candidates?
'I would say I was confident and very jovial with everyone. I really wanted to learn from the other contestants as I was from a technical background while most of them were from marketing.
'I was ready to learn and to keep an open mind because I could tell that they knew very different things from me and that this would be useful for me. For example, when we had to come up with a sales strategy as part of The Challenge, it was definitely good to have marketing experts in your group.'
What are you studying at the University of Salford and are you enjoying it?
Want to study in the UK?
'I really like the diversity of my class and I have met people from lots of different nationalities: Indians, Nigerians, Chinese and more. Even though the people are from diverse backgrounds, I can relate to them better now. Taking part in the competition also taught me how to relate to different groups of people and how to work together.
'I really like the lecturers. To be honest, I had a shock when I arrived; because the teachers and lecturers asked us to call them by their first names. Naturally, I’m inclined to call a lecturer by his or her title, but here they don’t mind first names.
'I think it’s nice that they relate to you as a friend. It means that if I have a problem I can go to them directly and talk to them about it.
'During class we’re really encouraged to debate, and the lecturer will sometimes take a step back and let us talk to each other.'
What is the learning environment like? Was it an adjustment?
'Salford is a very multicultural place. In the first couple of weeks I met very few Ghanaians; the student officer from Salford introduced me to most of the Ghanaians I met.
'At first, I was living with three Chinese girls and one Irish girl. In their cultures, I guess it isn’t really customary to greet all your flatmates in the morning and so at first I had to get used to that.
'There are really nice things here, like on the bus everyone says "Thank you” to the driver which I thought was funny and very polite. It’s not customary to thank drivers in Ghana at all. If you’re lost you can also grab a seat by the driver, and they will usually help you and tell you where to get off.
'Also, people here use nice terms like "my love" and "my dear" when they talk to you. You don’t do that in Ghana, because "my love" in Ghana means you actually love the person! I quite like it now that I am used to it because it makes me feel comfortable and like people are trying to be friendly.'
Are you finding the course challenging?
'It was a course I really wanted to do, and I do feel like I am getting more than I had expected.
'I originally studied information communications technology, so I specialise in databases and web based systems. It is quite interesting and now I’m deciding whether to go the business way, the technology way or the advanced databases way (in other words just working with data).
'The school here offers opportunities to do placements after the course so I could stay on and gain some experience.
'However, I could also go back home and use the information I have gathered here. You don’t have a lot of data mining companies in Ghana so there is definitely room for new businesses.
'Recently I attended a postgraduate event that was created by Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester and Salford University. It was all about entrepreneurship and I learnt a lot.
'I’m part of the international society and I have also joined the computing society, which is all about bringing the different branches of technology together. We come together and learn from each other, which is really useful.'
What do you miss the most from Ghana?
'My family – I have quite a big one back home! But I will go back, maybe during the Christmas holidays.'
What are some of the things you have done outside of class since you arrived?
'I have already visited Southampton and London, as I have family there.
'I have also been volunteering for the Green Impact Society, an environmental student group. As part of that I audited the library and one of the campuses at my university. The society has benchmarks on which we could grade them – so I was trying to get people to turn off their lights when they went to and from work and going around lecturers’ offices and inspecting who had and who hadn't turned the lights out. I found that in the UK people drink lots of tea so one task is making sure they don’t leave the kettle on!
'After the audit we wrote a report and published it, and we left notes for the guilty parties saying "Please try turn off your printer/kettle if you are going home for the weekend". We gave the report to the Green Impact society and the Sustainability Officer in charge of Salford.'
What is your dream for the future and what would you most like to achieve?
'I want to see how data can be used in effective decision making. It’s amazing, here I can just plan things into my phone – in Ghana it’s difficult to plan ahead and know how long it will take you to get from point A to point B. Also the internet is very expensive in Ghana and not everyone has it.'
What is your best memory of the UK so far – the one you will tell your grandchildren about?
'In the very first few weeks, I got stuck in the lift. That’s not the good bit though! I was really impressed by the speed with which I was "rescued". It was amazing!
'I pressed the emergency button and almost immediately someone was talking to me and they were calming me down and said someone was coming, and then someone came really quickly. It made me realise how efficient things are here.'