Not only a beacon, but also a launch pad…

Chukwuma Okonkwo - Master of Public Policy and Management student and recipient of a Faculty of Arts 110 Scholarship in 2017 shares his story.

Growing up in Nigeria in a less privileged background presented me with financial and academic challenges, but also helped me realise the value of education.

From Nigeria to Australia

Before I came to Australia I was working on policy for the Nigerian government under the Minister of Finance. I thought it was important to formally study policy making and develop the practical skills I felt I was lacking.

There was an election in Nigeria in 2015 and the government that I worked for lost the election. When you are working for a political party and they go, you go too. I was debating what I wanted to do next. Did I want to stay in Nigeria and find another job? Or should I formalise my policy-making experience? I decided to pursue further study and arrived in Melbourne soon after.

It was tough arriving in a new country, but lots of things about life are tough and you just have to adjust. I decided to apply for the 110 Scholarship because it had become very difficult for me to survive in my new environment.

Making a positive difference

It’s really hard to express how I felt when my application was successful; to say that I was excited would be an understatement.

The scholarship wasn’t just a beacon of hope, it was a launch pad. It gave me the motivation and support I needed to continue.

The scholarship has also inspired me to someday give back to people. It gives me motivation to give back to the community who gave so much to me. I made a promise to myself that at some point in my life I want to set up a scholarship fund. It’s something that I’ve seen a lot of people in the University community do, especially alumni.

There are so many students who are facing financial challenges. It doesn’t matter how much you give, every little bit will gradually make a significant difference.

The scholarship I received represented an answer to my call for help when my cry was loudest. My academic pursuit this year would have been impossible without it.

Looking to the future

The reason I started studying the Master of Public Policy and Management was because I wanted to return to Nigeria and work for the government. I am also hoping to continue my studies and pursue a doctorate in public sector development. One of the great things about public policy is that it’s global. But I’m especially interested in developing countries.

I am committed to my academic pursuit. I hope that someday I might be able to give back to the University and help to give other people an opportunity like the one I have been given.