‘Diverse professionals can find their place within this interdisciplinary course’ – how studying online allowed one student to network around the globe
Our online Sustainable Development MSc empowers students to contribute effectively to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through widespread sustainability transformations.
We caught up with Walusungu Lulukile Ngulube, one of our online students who is working as a Field Coordinator at the United Nations Development Programme from her home in South Sudan. Here’s what she had to share about her experience studying so far:
Why did you choose to study online with the University of Sussex?
I was working with Naturally Africa Volunteers and, in 2019, we received one of our youngest volunteers from the United Kingdom. After he heard that l was applying for my masters, he encouraged me to apply at the University of Sussex. He told me if l wanted to study and specialise on anything in the development sector, then University of Sussex was the best choice because they were ranked the first in the world for development studies. I did not need to be told twice!
I always thought l would study for my master’s onsite and never thought much about online studying. It was not as real as being in class physically, l thought.
However, one of the biggest lessons l have learnt this past year is that education does not have to be limited to a four-corner room with a lecturer standing in front of you. Schools closing during the covid-19 pandemic has proved that education can take place anywhere, in your home, outside seating in your garden and mostly online. The power to learn should not be limited to where it happens, but how it happens.
Why did you choose to study Sustainable Development MSc (online)?
Improving other people’s lives especially the most vulnerable is my purpose. In 2014, l founded a grassroots NGO called Inspiration Koner. I was keen on working with the youth, especially the marginalised. Growing up as an orphan, l thought l could relate to the challenges they were facing. I convinced myself that if l shared my story and motivated them enough then they would stay in school. However, things where not as l had imagined. Most of the youth came from difficult backgrounds and neighbourhoods – they needed something more than motivation.
During a candid conversation I shared with one of the volunteers while working at Naturally Volunteers Africa, they suggested that l consider applying for the MSc in Sustainable Development. The course was interdisciplinary, drawing concepts from economics, development studies, political science, innovation, science, technology, and society studies. It captured me, especially as someone who wants to specialise in the development sector for sustainable solution for the problems marginalised people face.
What’s been your favourite module so far and what made it so engaging?
All the modules have been really educational and amazing, however l must say “Democratising Science and Technology” stood out for me. You know that awe one gets when they are introduced to something, they never imagined existed? That is what happened to me going through this module, l had a lot of “oh my gosh” moments.
The content was very personal; through this module l was introduced to innovation. I have been hearing about innovation, but this course helped me understand its beauty and power especially for developing Countries. The module woke up the quote “minds on the margin are not marginal mind” in me.
How have you found online learning?
One thing l have valued while studying my master’s online has been the group work and the beauty and power of our master’s community. As a requirement for the assessments, most of the modules require that we work in groups for a submission. Through the group work I have made friends and created bonds with people l have not met physically.
Our Masters class has a WhatsApp group, which has become more like a family and support system through this learning journey. The program has diverse group of people from all walks of life yet, despite being so different, we are connected through this journey.
How do you manage your study time around other personal and professional commitments?
I am currently working full time, planning for my wedding, and studying! Imagine juggling all three, among all my other commitments. The master’s program requires that we spend at least 20 hours studying each week. One thing l have learnt to do is to allow myself a lot of grace and flexibility. Balance is everything.
I have learnt not to wait for the perfect moments but be deliberate with my time; like choosing to start my mornings early so l can take some time out to read and exercise or use my lunch hour break to catch up on some wedding planning.
How has this course impacted your career and/or personal development so far?
I use some of the concepts l learn in the module when developing concept notes or a term of reference at work. The discussions we have during the module with the module instructors and my fellow students have also helped shape my implementation strategy for project activities at work.
I also appreciate the candid conversations with my peers on how we can use the information we are learning to make a difference in our worlds. Each module has taught us that change will not come easy, however, there is always a place to start and that is where we begin.
What advice would you give to anyone considering this online course?
Get to know yourself and make decisions based on who you are. One thing l know is that you have nothing to lose from getting an education. The online MSc in Sustainable development has been life changing for me, it has been challenging and frustrating at the same time, exciting and annoying at the same time.
Diverse professionals can find their places within this interdisciplinary course. If you decide on this online course, you have to commit yourself fully and be disciplined. You will need to put in the work and trust me it will be worth it.
If you would like to learn more about the online Masters that Walusungu studied with us, please visit the Sustainable Development MSc (online) course page.