Forward Bound scholarship – reflection from our scholar, Caroline

Caroline Mukebezi

Caroline Mukebezi

Since 2015, we have been delighted, with the kind support of Fiona Deane with money left to her by a family legacy, to have offered the Forward Bound scholarship to MSc Health Promotion applicants from low or lower-middle income countries. This award is intended to support health and other professionals who are employed or who volunteer in roles where they will be able to influence and shape health promotion practice and policy on their return. Due to this generous donation, we have been able to offer tuition fees, accommodation, travel and a living subsistence each year to successful candidates. There have been six scholars so far. For more information about the Forward Bound scholarship, visit here – https://www.brighton.ac.uk/studying-here/fees-and-finance/postgraduate/international-students/scholarships/forward-bound-scholarships.aspx

Caroline Mukebezi, our sixth scholar, tells us about herself, and her experiences whilst at Brighton.

“I have been naturally drawn to the medical field because of my early exposures to health difficulties suffered by my family. I lost both my parents to HIV/AIDS and growing up in Uganda, HIV/AIDS has affected many families and communities in many ways, but lack of access to health information contributed immensely to both mortality and morbidity in the Ugandan community at the time and remains largely so now.  I therefore realised that the best gift to my community was to improve access to health, hence after my first degree, I started working in the largest HIV/AIDS NGO in Uganda (TASO) as community health advocate, and later in another health institution (Alive Medical services as Health project officer and Programme coordinators on donors funded programme.

Losing my parents made me became a caregiver at early age, looking after my younger siblings, and the affordability and quality of health care that my family and I received, is something that I have never taken for granted hence, it has been my desire and goal to make a significant contribution in my community, promote health, advocate for rights, reduce the burden or disease, change health behaviours, policies, and practices to improve the health systems in my country, but this cannot be possible without further studies in health promotion.

Although I was employed as community public health worker in Uganda, I was unable to save money to further my education because I am the only breadwinner in my family, and I needed financial aid or a scholarship that would enable me to pursue a master’s programme in health promotion to help me improve my career and wellbeing of my community.

I was determined to apply for several scholarships around the world, and in July 2020, I was honoured to receive the Forward Bound scholarship from the University of Brighton. This meant a whole world to me, and it has been a life changing opportunity for myself and my entire country. The scholarship provided me with a financial aid and entirely enabled me to be supported to achieve my educational goals and continue with studies with less stress over lack of money to study, hence giving me an opportunity to focus on my education, and a well- rounded university experience. Through the scholarship, I have been able to grow academically and professionally, and the course deepened my knowledge and skills around health. I am very certain that after obtaining my Masters course in health promotion this will greatly benefit me and my community on return”.

ACADEMICALLY…

“Thinking along with my modules in my 1st semester, the modules gave me a fresh and a whole new experience of how the educational system in the UK operates. Having come from a different educational backgrounds like Uganda, I was very motivated and excited to start my course and learn a lot from it. However, along the course, I found some of the modules very challenging as I did not understand how to apply theory and knowledge into practice. Additionally, what made it more challenging was all the modules were delivered online entirely virtual, hence I did not get an opportunity to meet other students and lecturers to discuss issues related to the modules in person. But as time went by, I managed to connect with a few friends and this helped me to enjoy some modules, particularly the principles of health promotion and behavioural change module, strategic planning and the HEM 707 research module. This is because we could share thoughts and reflection and this was critical in adapting too. One positive experience I gained from these modules was they enabled me to develop knowledge and critical thinking skills to understand things related to my area of practice and also enabled me to look further in different areas of my interest even those that I did not have high confidence in.

Another positive experience I gained from the modules was during the strategic planning module that was delivered in form of a group presentation. I found group working very helpful as it enabled me to further develop my communication skills, listening skills, presentation skills. The motivation and encouragement we provided each other in the group work were invaluable amidst the COVID-19 challenges. Additionally, the strategic planning module also gave me a sense of pride and achievement after the completion of our project and assignment. As such these skills and knowledge are important aspects that will assist me in my future career and development.

My experiences were mixed especially when studies started in September 2020. This was in part to the strange way of studying but also due to weather and working virtually due to lockdown. In contrast, Uganda was very open with few COVID cases at this time. However, many learnings and experiences such as research skills and group working will make me think and do things differently in the future.”

PERSONALLY…

“Since coming to the University of Brighton, I have varied experiences which will certainly shape my thinking as well as my personal and professional life. Besides the weather and COVID-19 which changed the academic year, cultural shock was also an issue to me. The food was very different from those we have in Uganda and the community and way of life were equally different. Although with time, I began to gradually integrate, it was not easy from the beginning especially as COVID restricted international students’ activities which could have helped some of us adapt quicker and better. Lectures too were delivered virtually which looks strange to many students including me and this created a feeling of loneliness both in our academic pursuit or social interaction. Some of the lectures schedule were congested with little time for students to reflect on the issues and asking questions although time was allocated for students to ask questions at end of each module. In the midst of all these, key skills and attributes that I gained will help me to cope and adapt to studies were communication, planning, and organizational skills. They helped me stay on top of my studies and follow up lesson plans effectively.

These experiences have rather given me a positive overall outlook in life especially in becoming a resilient person and learning to deal with challenges in a productive manner. The challenges posed by COVID in delivering face-to-face lectures also helped me with the virtual way of doing things thus improve my ability to conduct online research.  My experiences at the University of Brighton have generally improved my ability to critically analyse situations before making decisions. It has taught me to be a good listener and a better co-ordinator. These skills and many others already discussed are indispensable for my future career and development. I believe this will positively influence my future as I have learned many new skills and knowledge which is in line with my expectations. I have also had valuable exposure through this programme and the ability to think and do things differently.”

NEXT…

“I plan to continue working in international development especially managing health programmes and have gained valuable skills and experiences to enhance my career. This includes thinking differently and critically analyse things before making decisions. It also includes group working and coordinating skills. Another key takeaway from the module involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and putting their thoughts and ideas together in a coordinated and acceptable way. Even though challenging, the experience I gained from this course helped improve my communication, listening, and persuasive skills especially when colleagues find it difficult to agree on a set course of action.”

AND FINALLY…

“My vision is to continue promoting health, support health interventions and programmes in my country, empower younger women to adopt healthier lifestyles, improve access to health information, and enable people to live a better life. The scholarship will enable me to play a leading role in improving health in my community, and budge the gender gap which often prevents women in fulfilling their life and career potentials in Uganda.

I am very grateful to my donor, Fiona Deane, my course leader, Carol Williams and to the entire committee of the Forward Bound scholarship and the University of Brighton for giving me this great opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills that will not only benefit me as a person but also improve the health of citizens in my country. Thank you so much for the support especially to international students like myself. I cannot thank you enough! Long Live the Forward Bound scholarship!”

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