Case study

How a GREAT scholarship
moved climate
advocate Olajumoke

Africa to the UK is a big move, but Olajumoke Adefolakemi Sobayo was already thinking big picture, by looking for ways to help the global environment. Her £11,000 GREAT Scholarship made it all possible.

At home in Nigeria, Olajumoke says there are limited opportunities for someone interested in climate change. She had pushed herself as far as she could with her two degrees – an undergraduate in Forestry Management, and a postgraduate in Renewable Natural Resources. But she was looking for a wider perspective to get to where she wanted to be.

Olajumoke says: “I had fees and finance in mind, but I didn’t know about the University of Derby when I applied – it was because I came across the scholarship. I saw the GREAT Scholarship link on Instagram and saw the partner universities and saw the University of Derby, the modules I wanted and was passionate about. I decided to apply. Even though I knew there was only one scholarship award, I felt I had what they were looking for.”

Studying in the UK was not initially an option for Olajumoke because of higher fees, and she accepts she would not be here without the £11,000 GREAT Scholarship. She says: “When I got a call that said I got it, I had to ask, ‘are you being honest, are you joking?’ I was so excited I was screaming!” 

Olajumoke would go on to share the happy news with her family. She explains: “It was very easy for me to tell them I only needed to raise £3,700 for my course. My parents are academics, they were really excited to let me go. They speak very well of the UK and knew I was going to learn a lot."

"I think they were a bit more excited than I was because they knew what I was going to gain. It was really a big deal.” 

Adapting to new environments 

Olajumoke enrolled on our MSc Environmental Assessment and Control in September 2021. She quickly discovered the functional differences from studying in Nigeria. She says: “In my uni back home, we didn’t really have online learning so everything was physical including classes, submitting assignments – here you can go back to your lecturers, you can replay the sessions if you miss it.”

Olajamoke working on computer

She was also impressed by the quality of Wi-Fi, library materials, lab space, and field trips. “The difference is wide.” She says, “Coming from where I came from with the knowledge and the systems that I’ve been used to, I had this shock I was not really used to using the UDo (University of Derby) website and app – now I’ve got used to it, it feels really good. You can’t keep using the same approach in life, you need to be open to learning new things."

One world focus

Part of the shortlisting for a GREAT Scholarship involves the submission of a 500-word essay about interest in a relevant topic. Olajumoke’s varied background volunteering as a green advocate made her the perfect candidate. She says: “I pushed a campaign against deforestation of trees. I volunteered with an organisation in cleaning waste in public markets – some of the things that cause climate issues. I was volunteering while schooling and then after my masters, I went to learn something that encompassed all aspects of the environment – the air, water, and land. I wanted to integrate all the aspects of the environment and that’s what I’m getting here.”

The passion has stayed with her and as a British Council scholar, she was invited to COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Olajumoke explains: “They invited the GREAT scholars to be part of the programme. We were able to exchange knowledge, network, it was really a very big thing.”

As for what’s next? Olajumoke can see that the modules she’s studying are relevant to tackling environmental issues that are happening, such as waste production, which is often created without organisations being aware of it.

"Having the knowledge and skills – I’d like to see myself working as an environmental consultant at one of the big companies either here or abroad, maybe back home. I’m really excited to consult for companies – help them tackle the issues and climate actions that need to be taken. Everything I’ve learned here I’d like to use and help organisations make an eco-friendly world.”