Currently there are 3 students from Sierra Leone studying Masters Courses in Ireland. They are funded under the Irish Aid Scholarship Programme. The following is an article written by Aminata Seilloh Conteh who is studying for an MA in International Development in University College Dublin.
Whilst I was preparing for a 12 months Master’s Degree in the Republic of Ireland, I forgot to pack the zest for screaming “Nollaig Shona” alone from a room in the Glenomena Residences with a window that faces the woods.
Together with 7 country mates, we flew from Freetown to Dublin on a Thursday afternoon with all the excitement like a 5-years-old. We have worked hard for this, prayed for it and flew with one mind to sharpen our excellence. Being awarded the Irish-Aid 2020/21 scholarship was an honor and as we pranced with regal importance to our different schools across Ireland, we still kept one heart.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we pulled through a trimester, catching up on phone and seldom arranging meetings. For the two others who lived farther off, we threw pictures and smiles their way.
Nonetheless, staying sane through this global halt has been a personal decision. I lost a sister back home but found a strong support system from school and few friends I met here. School has been good too – with an intentional dress-up for every zoom class becoming a habit.
It’s Christmas Eve and after looking around, I do have a lot to be grateful for. There’s a family that constantly cheers me on, there are friends who believe in and motivate me, and there is the Irish Government who makes sure I don’t lack everything; there is the University College Dublin, whose excellence does not only radiate from its beautiful pictures I wowed at on the internet, but has been consistent in nurturing the International Development Expert I desire to become and there is me, a whole ball of perseverance.
It’s Christmas Eve and I got mashed potatoes for breakfast in an apartment where every other student returned home for the holidays. Dublin City Centre is full of life – we toss the spirit of Christmas around behind our facemasks. The lights are on, trees are dressed with Red, Green and Gold ornaments and we cross ourselves, tightly gripping our shopping bags.
I do think of home, I miss the fairs, laughs and family tradition. But here is home too and even though I am alone in my room, my heart is out on the streets, enjoying the warmth of the season, sending messages to other Irish Aid Fellows across the world whilst I sip Irish Coffee, stare through my window and whisper “Nollaig Shona / Api Krismes” to myself.
Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I can only ask Santa to “Heal the World” and restore Joy to nations – the type we sing about in carols.
Aminata Seilloh Conteh
Irish Aid Fellow – Sierra Leone