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Lockdown as an international Marshal Papworth scholarship student

Lockdown as an international Marshal Papworth scholarship student

Current Marshal Papworth global development scholarship student Caroline Gathoni Wanjohi Macharia, from Kenya, has, alongside her scholarship colleagues, been called to finish her Masters degree in MSc Communication for Development in less than normal circumstances. Here Caroline shares what the last few months have been like for her at the University of Reading:

“For most people, myself included, interacting with friends and family in person is an integral aspect of daily living. As an international student from Kenya, relocating to study at the University of Reading on a Marshal Papworth agricultural development scholarship provided an opportunity to meet and get to know many wonderful people who quickly became my family away from home.

As the School of Agriculture Policy and Development attracts students from many countries around the world, I got the opportunity to make friends who are all from different parts of the world. Unfortunately, the University had to turn to online teaching as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Having to learn from home meant not seeing the people I had become so accustomed to interacting with daily. Travel limitations also made it difficult to return to my home country and I have remained in Reading.

At first, this felt like a strange thing to undergo. The lockdown meant completing remaining parts of our coursework online and beginning our independent research for our dissertations from home and this made me very anxious. One reason for my anxiety was wondering if I would still get the support I needed to complete my degree on time. However, I quickly realised that I had no reason to be anxious. My module conveners went over and beyond their call of duty to provide all the support I needed to complete my coursework on time. This was despite the whole process requiring a lot of adjusting and a possible significant increase in their workload. Nonetheless, I have experienced incredible support from all my module convenors, the Marshal Papworth team, my personal tutor and even my dissertation supervisor. We have had both joint (with other students) and individual online sessions and their genuine concern for my welfare has been very reassuring.

I am currently working on my dissertation and despite having had to collect my data remotely, the continued support from my supervisor has greatly helped to make the process less stressful. My course mates have remained my close friends, and despite social distancing measures, we realised that we could still stay in touch and check-up on each other frequently. Though we could not physically meet-up, we started weekly online video e-meet up sessions. During these sessions we would share our experience and offer encouragement for anyone that was struggling to cope. We also watched films on some days, and had quiz nights on others.

Marshal Papworth student Caroline on a zoom call with her course colleagues

The best part of interacting with them has been getting to talk freely and have some fun with people in the exact same situation as me. It has not only been very reassuring but has also helped us to continue to learn from each other, noting that we are all from different countries and professional backgrounds. As I draw closer to completing my studies, I look back at my time here, and I am very pleased to have secured a Marshal Papworth scholarship to study at the University of Reading. “

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