Nworie Emmanuel, a first-class Mathematics graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who received a scholarship for a PhD programme in the United States of America months after his interview with Saturday PUNCH in November, 2020, shares his experience with ALEXANDER OKERE
Is it true you received a scholarship for a PhD in the US?
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It is a scholarship because I was offered admission for a PhD programme with a teaching assistantship position. The school is Southern Methodist University, a prominent school in Dallas, Texas, and the course is Computational and Applied Mathematics.
It’s normal for a graduate to obtain a master’s degree before proceeding for a PhD. Why did they offer you a doctoral degree programme instead?
Yes, most schools I know in the United States accept students for a PhD directly from a BSc but the difference is that the student spends five years for the programme.
The first two years for an MSc and the last three for the PhD. So, the student won’t have to make any applications after their MSc, seeking admission for a PhD.
What is Computational and Applied Mathematics all about?
Computational and Applied Mathematics is basically the use of computers for mathematical computations, the study of what can (and cannot) be computerised in mathematics. It focuses on the application of a broad range of mathematical and computational methods to modelling, analysis, algorithm development, and simulation for the solution of complex scientific and engineering problems.
Can you explain how you got the scholarship and the process you went through?
To get admitted to most schools in the United States, one needs to show their level of proficiency in English and so, they are expected to provide a proof of that by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language or International English Language Testing System. However, to beat off challenges from other students, someone applying for certain courses needs to take an extra exam called the Graduate Records Examination. These things I did. I applied to the over 12 schools with the help of Dr Michael Taiwo (the man who hosts the MTScholarship that covered my test fees and application fees) and a mentor, Dr Busayo Aworunse, and submitted all the required documents, including the test scores and personal statement, not forgetting the letters of recommendation. The schools that felt I was fit for their programme accepted me and I chose the best among them.
Having achieved this a few months after your interview went viral, how did you feel when the scholarship was announced to you?
Anyone given an opportunity to do what they enjoy doing would surely be happy. I was glad, especially because I had the option of choosing from a number of offers.
Well, sometimes when I look at the Nigerian media and their reportage, I cry because some don’t get to write exactly what happened but what they feel people need to hear. This is where I feel The PUNCH is different. My first interview published in PUNCH newspaper shows they are different and I commend them for that.
How did your mum react to the news of the scholarship?
She didn’t really understand it the first time, she thought it was the Nigerian thing and was like, ‘I hope they won’t give it to another person before you get there’. Well, she understands better now; that’s what is important.
It’s probably your first time in the US. What was the first thing that came to your mind when you arrived?
Immediately I arrived at the airport, I felt peace. Though with high expectations from the United States, I knew one thing: there won’t be banditry here; no herders, killing, no Boko Haram, no kidnapping – having to know you can walk on the streets and you are not scared at all times and a lot more.
How did the university receive you?
There is a difference here (US). I am admitted to a school; the only thing the school owes me is my classes and the stipend from my teaching duties. It is not their duty to pick me up at the airport. They have a lot of international students they admitted so, I wonder how many people they will be picking up at different times. However, Dr Michael Taiwo had ab initio planned for where I would stay and get used to the United States before the commencement of classes. Meanwhile, on my first visit to the school, I was well-accepted by the graduate students advisor for Mathematics.
As a graduate student, one would have to make plans before their travels about their accommodation. The school doesn’t give free accommodation. In cases where the school provides accommodation, it is usually for a fee, sometimes, relatively higher than the cost of living outside the university campus.
What is your target now, as a PhD student in the US?
Target? Well, I am here to study for a PhD. So, my target is to graduate with a PhD in due time.
Was it your dream to study abroad or did you just hope you would get a teaching job in a university in Nigeria after an MSc?
Teaching is a hobby to me. I hoped to get a teaching job but studying abroad was never out of the picture, especially because, problem-solving is a hobby too. Studying abroad would equip me with hands-on training to solve problems in other sectors of the economy.
Have you started teaching?
No. My teaching duties will start on the 23rd of August 2021.
How are you coping with the type of food there, considering you’re not used to the American cuisine?
I’ve tried out a lot of their food and they are not too bad.
COVID-19 is still a problem globally. Did you get tested in Nigeria and the US or given a vaccine before you were allowed to fly or enter the university?
I was tested in Nigeria before I was allowed to fly. Also, taking the vaccine is a requirement to participate in the offline classes.
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