Applying for study at a university abroad usually entails a fair amount of work that only a prospective student can do. Most importantly, after the hard work has been put in, there remains rigorous steps to follow through before one leaves their home country.
Limpho Phate, a young Mosotho lady currently studying her MSc. in Accounting and Finance at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom, shared with us her educational journey with helpful advice to young hopefuls.
“I attended my primary at Leseli Community School and then went to the National University of Lesotho International School (NULIS) for my high school.” She later went to Center for Accounting Studies where she completed her Chartered Accountant studies at the age of 20. A record-time!
“From the time I completed ACCA, I always felt a little empty; like I just wasn’t done. I couldn’t settle to just be a Chartered Accountant.” She said. “I wanted to say I have a degree. So as soon as I got my results in August 2015 I started applying for study in South Africa.”
She applied to Fort Hare, Nelson Mandela University and Rhodes in 2015 but was rejected.
In 2016 she tried again. She even went through the hassle of going to South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and was told that her qualification was nothing because it didn’t say ‘from a certain university’. “‘We do not evaluate professional qualifications’ is what they told me.” She adds.
“At this time I had already applied to other universities. All that was left was for me to submit the evaluation certificate from HESA or SAQA which I obviously never got.”
After a whole lot of research, she found out that it had not been wise to just jump into ACCA without a degree because furthering her studies would be difficult.
“I remember walking out of HESA in Pretoria with tears in my eyes after they told me they could not do anything about it.”
She then decided to give up on furthering her studies and started working. Early 2017 I got a job at SACCOS which I left later on that year when I got a job offer at CBS.
She had made peace with not going to school again.
“I don’t know how or why but my dad came across advertisements for scholarships to study in the UK and he looked through them and found that the university he had attended was offering scholarships. He probably looked everything through out of curiosity and came across a course tailor-made for ACCA students.”
“I had lost interest and only applied because I knew he would never let it go until I gave him proof that I had applied. Two weeks later I was offered a conditional place to study the course.” She recalls. “The conditions were fairly straight forward: I had to provide two references and take an English test.”
“I took the English test in Pretoria and then learned that the results would be published two weeks after the scholarship application closed. I informed my parents and they were heartbroken but we agreed to wait for the test results.” She recollects.
When the results came, she had done really well and was advised by the parents to send them in to secure a place while they try to figure out financing options or scholarships.
Early December came her unconditional offer letter along with school fees. “My heart sank and I lost hope after looking for other scholarships and not finding anything suitable for me.” She laments. “My dad however became a hero and offered to pay half of the fees as was required before I could enroll with the university.”
She had to apply for a visa before paying her fees and she did around the 18th December and had to take a TB test. Accredited clinics are only in South Africa and she tried the closest places but they were all fully booked until mid January. “I had to go all the way to Durban for that test; this meant more and more costs!”
The last week of December I went to the VISA appointment where I was to submit all my documents. Because I was already late in applying, I was prepared to pay a priority fee for my VISA to be processed faster but because I am a Mosotho, I was told it would be useless to do so.”
She had to leave for the UK on the 10th January latest and her VISA was only issued on the 18th but she was still able to achieve what she had been praying so hard for.
“Trying to go to school in another continent is very hard, especially this country; they make you jump through so many hoops.” She says if you don’t have the emotional and financial support as well as the pure desire to go, it’s almost impossible to achieve anything.
“My parents kept me going amidst all these challenges, especially my mum. She knew how badly I wanted to go to further my studies and during times when I was ready to give up she would always push me.”
She says being an international student is hard. “They try to treat us equally but at the end of the day it’s not the same, some people are heard and we are not. For example, if there’s a problem, they are likely to listen and resolve if there’s a local complaining.”
While in the UK, Limpho works part-time at an accounting firm during her spare time.
Her advice to students planning to study abroad is to start planning a year in advance. “The last thing you need to worry about is that you will get rejected. Scholarship applications close in November for the next year, so start early so you have a head start on everything. It’s a lot of work but never doubt that it’s possible.” She advises.
“Plan ahead. Securing a place at a university is easy. Do your research. A lot of things came as a shock to me because I didn’t do enough research.” She reiterates. “It’s possible, just have faith and keep pushing. If you don’t push no one will!”