There is always that number one thing you cannot forget during a lifetime, be it horrible or wonderful. Tasting my cooked meal and spewing it out was one of those experiences. I had never given any thought to learning how to cook growing up; having my mother and two sisters around gave me no chance of visiting the kitchen. I managed to avoid cooking throughout my young life, however, my nemesis caught up with me in Manchester.
The first few days in the UK saw me eat more burgers and pizzas than I have ever eaten in my entire twenty something years. Returning to my departure notes and briefings by British Council saw me do a little calculation on my expenditure on burgers and pizzas. The results and reaction was an open-mouth and a dropping jaw. I then decided to try cooking to save money. The hustle was real. From the buying of foodstuffs and spices, to the frying of the chicken, right down to the cleaning of bowls, I had to call Ghana. When I was done cooking with much suffering, I was too tired to eat that evening. I woke up the next day to enjoy the fruit of my labour. The following happened; the stew did not taste like my wife’s stew, neither did it taste like my mother’s nor my sisters, neither did it even taste like my elder brother’s. It tasted like my stew! I could not eat any of it. Neither could I chew the meat as it was as bad as the stew. I decided to eat the rice raw with ‘shito’ I brought from Ghana. Even the rice tasted different. It was later explained to me that there are different types of rice in the UK and apparently, what I bought was the cheapest that nobody liked. Unfortunately, I bought 10kg of it. How it got finished, only the Lord knows.
It dawned on me that the time of dependence and over reliance on people was over. It was time to be the master architect of my own destiny. It was time to stop avoiding certain challenges and face it squarely. The days of waiting to be fed were over. It was time to take to the market and cook my food, make sure I can eat and also feed others. It was time to move from being an assistant civil/structural engineer where I was being spoon-fed with all the information and details, to become a principal consulting engineer where I fish out details and take responsibilities. It was time to move from waiting to be directed to taking the initiative of directing affairs. After all that is the spirit and letter of the scholarship scheme.
I have enjoyed my studies so far at The University of Manchester – ranked 4th in the UK for civil/structural engineering by QS®. The university is also arguably the biggest single campus in the UK. My MSc. Structural engineering class has also been fantastic and very practical. The university is top class in infrastructure and technology. I was surprised when I learnt that the learning commons/library loans out iPads to students for their learning. Every book is available in the library (soft and hard copy), if it is not available, just inform the library and the book would be purchased. You have no excuse not to succeed. I have learnt a lot so far and I have a lot to work with and impart into my fellow engineers and engineering students back at home.
On United Kingdom itself, I admire the way systems work. My experience isn’t only civil engineering as I now have a global perspective for providing solutions to Ghana’s myriad of challenges. The systems set up in the UK are a solution to their problems. I remember a lady from the Manchester City Council knocked on my door to register my name into the voter’s register. I needed to be registered but I didn’t need to vote. In the comfort of my home she brought out a document with my name and address already printed and all I had to do was to sign and show her my passport. That was pretty easy and cool. Coincidentally, my country back at home was deliberating on a new voter’s register and how to go about it at that same time. That got me thinking about the systems in the United Kingdom and how it inures to their benefit. The lady had my records because I was a newly registered student at The University of Manchester, so all she did was to request for the data of all newly registered students and voila, she was at my door. Simple!
Inevitably, I definitely made some laughable errors upon my entry into the UK, of which I tease myself in retrospect. I remember trying to sit at the driver’s seat when I was boarding a taxi. Ghana uses the left-handed driving rule, hence the driver and his steering wheel are on the left and the passenger seat is on the right. The reverse is the case in the United Kingdom, so upon the driver helping me get my stuff in, I opened his door and sat down. He came up to my side, opening the door to point out that I was behind the wheel. How embarrassing, however, I saw him smiling so I guess he was used to getting that from foreigners. The driving system also relates to their traffic system hence crossing the roads in UK can be quite confusing for foreigners such as me. This was because traffic moves in the opposite direction than what is the case in Ghana. I am still acclimatising though, while being careful.
It has only been four months into this scholarship programme and I feel inspired to impact the development of my beloved country Ghana. I cannot wait to be back because among other reasons I miss my wife of five months old!
About the Author
Paa Yooku Yawson is a TGSS Scholar from Ghana. He is currently studying MSc. Structural Engineering at The University of Manchester.