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Scholar Story

Caleb Sawe – Scorecard Series XXVI

My i-SI Experience: Dogged scholar vs Mentored scholar

I prefer to be called Sawe, but my name is Caleb. Caleb means dog; and yes, I am dogged (most of the time). Yet, “doggedness” has its limit. Even the “dogged-est” dog gets tired after so many rejections. You see, my quest for international graduate studies began in 2018. However, by the time I met iSI in 2020, I had gotten so many rejections that I was beginning to doubt whether I could secure admission with funding. Getting a scholarship that covered my TOEFL and GRE application fees, was exactly what I needed to reassure myself that I could actually win -something- anything.

Prior to my iSI award, I knew little about academic mentorship. So when I got the iSI scholarship, I thought I was just getting money to sponsor international exams. But I was wrong-very wrong. In iSI, I found “a family”. What else can you call a group of people who encourage excellence in you, celebrate you, fund you, inspire you and follow you on until you achieve your dreams? With Daddies like Dr Akanbi and Dr Olufemi to keep you focused; and Siblings like Fahidat, Solomon and Tolulope who are only a chat away and always ready to help. iSI became a home for me to nurse my wounded dreams of international graduate studies, and see them grow into fruition. For months, I saw (almost on a daily basis) the success stories of other scholars, and with time, the overwhelming dread of securing fully-funded admissions began to subside into oblivion.

I kept following up on my applications and eventually, my turn came. I remember how I was celebrated, like a super-star, when I finally announced that I got a fully funded MSC offer to study Biological Sciences-Bioenergy in the United States. But that was not all: iSI followed me up, and walked me through the visa application process, and kept my morale up prior to the interview day. Being mentored by people who; know what they are doing and sincerely want the best for you, is indeed priceless. Priceless- is exactly what you get when you become an i-Scholar.

New scholars should, therefore, realize that they are getting far more than money, and should leverage on the amazing opportunity they have to achieve success. Do this by imbibing the true spirit of iSI- raising others up with what you have without the expectation of returns. I recall that in my first few months on the program, I had a “poor” and self-centred mentality- seeking only what I could gain from iSI. Of course, be willing to ask for help when you need to. However, be even more willing to help others within and outside the iSI family with whatever you learn in the program. Freely, you have received! Freely, give!

When I turned in my application for the iSI scholarship award, the best I could have hoped for was the sponsorship of my TOEFL and GRE exams, but I got much more than I bargained for. My life in its entirety (and I do not exaggerate) has been transformed by it, for I have been empowered by the often underrated power of mentorship. I once was just a dogged scholar. Now? Now, I am much more- a mentored scholar is more than a dog on steroids; I’m a lion (roar).