Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Yale Young African Scholars Programme Experience

There is nothing more rewarding and exciting than being a part of an experience that challenges you intellectually and physically and teaches you to see the world in a way you never thought possible. My time at the Yale Young African Scholars Programme was truly an incredible once in a life time opportunity.

The Yale Young African Scholars Programme (YYAS) is a highly selective week long academic and leadership programme that brings together 50 young Africans aged 14- 18 years who have the passion, talent, drive, energy and ideas to make meaningful impacts as young leaders, even before they begin their university studies. YYAS is an official program of Yale University. There is no cost to students to participate in the Yale Young African Scholars Program.

My initial experience at YYAS was quite daunting. On the first day we were all given a bag, containing a huge binder file with seminar notes, a notebook and a pen. It is then I realised that this was not a holiday, I was here to work. Furthermore I was one of the eldest participants and thought I would find the younger participants annoying, but surprisingly I realised that when you are surrounded by people/children so brilliant and so driven to make a positive impact on the continent and share similar interest with you, then age is no barrier.

YYAS somewhat mimicked life at university as we had assignments, group projects, lectures and seminars everyday.  Each day started with breakfast at 8am and sleep time at midnight. But nonetheless we were well fed and always looked forward to what the day had to offer! Throughout the week I got to participate in seminars conducted by current Yale students who were just as excited to teach us as we were excited to be taught by them. There was a wide variety of seminars we could attend, all with topics of great interest such as Photography, Africa’s role in the United Nations, Whether we should Consume Genetically Modified foods, Femininsm etc. The Yale students also shared with us how life is at Yale, especially as an African student and they offered one to one sessions on applying to universites in the US.

I also had the honour of attending lectures taught by current Yale professors and faculty members- mind you these faulty members kindly flew in from the US just to teach us for 2hours. The lectures where absolutely incredible and encouraged an interactive atmosphere. Everyone expressed their views freely.

There was also a Yale Mixer Night, were we got the honour to mingle with Yale Alumni and alumni from other US colleges. I enjoyed this night thoroughly because I got to appreciate the art of networking and the importance of establishing contacts for future purposes. The advice most of the Yale Faculty/students/visitors shared with us during that evening was the importance of not forgetting where you come from, following your heart and taking the path less taken. Though that road may be rough it will be the most fruitful. For example one of our Yale lectures told us that she dropped out of Harvard Medical School to pursue her love for Anthropology. Furthermore, nurture your strengths and do not take them for granted because fostering them can lead to genius abilities.

Thirty African countries were represented in this programme. That’s a whole lot of languages! Every day, I made it my aim to learn a phrase or two in other African languages and I came back with an immense knowledge on the different customs and cultures of this beautiful continent we reside in.

By the time this programme drew to an end I had learnt a lot about myself and gained a greater appreciation for not only my country but the richness and diversity of Africa. I also realised that we as young Africans have the power and ability to find new solutions to Africa’s problems and the world’s problems and that it is our responsibility to do so.

This programme has given me a zest for life, a go-getter attitude and a made me believe that I can truly do anything I set my mind to. Furthermore if you want to go far in life and succeed in whatever you do, you should take with you people who will guide you, push you, inspire you to do great and allow you to see greatness in yourself.

YYAS is an excellent programme and I highly encourage those eligible to apply do so by visiting their website, africanscholars.yale.edu or see me for more information. Applications are now open and entries close on 31 March 2016.

Mabedi Sennanyana L6L