New Student from the Newest Country

Public Health student blogger NadiaGreetings University of London International Programmes blogosphere. My name is Nadia, I’m 25 years old and I’m a humanitarian aid worker in South Sudan. I’ve just started the distance learning Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health, although I hope to eventually increase this to a Masters if this goes well (fingers crossed!).

I did a BA in Social and Political Sciences and then immediately after an MPhil in African Studies at Cambridge University, leaving in 2011, so I’ve still got the student vibe in me, and I think going back to studying will be less of a struggle than for many of the other students who have had a bigger gap. However I have no health background, so I am a bit daunted when I see so many of my fellow students are medical practitioners already!

I became interested in Public Health from my work. In my two and a half years in South Sudan I’ve worked on a variety of assessments for NGOs and UN agencies, and since January I’ve been based in Yida and Ajuong Thok refugee camps, where about 75,000 refugees from the Nuba Mountains have come since 2012, fleeing aerial bombardment of their homelands by the Sudanese government to quell an armed rebellion.Map of Yida, Sudan I have been working doing various assessments of the camps, but in particular working with GIS to help NGOs on the ground – for example doing a census of all the households and linking this to a GPS coordinate so we can see how many refugees live within a particular distance of a borehole, and in which areas of the camp people have to walk unacceptably long distances to reach water. As water and sanitation was the greatest challenge in Yida this year and increased by a Hepatitis E epidemic, I worked very closely with water and sanitation experts and became extremely interested in this field and the effects on human health. I feel I applied to the course on a whim and then actually decided to go through with it as I realised it was something I was very keen to do.

Several months down the line and I am not regretting it at all, as I’ve found my course materials very interesting. My biggest challenge has been that due to the lack of any reliable postal options to South Sudan, I decided to let my course materials be posted to relatives in the UK, so I have start with only what’s available online and wait to receive the physical copies until December. The online resources are great however, and I’m able to start my studies despite this drawback. I am also really enjoying the forums, as it makes you feel connected to a student body even though I am in fact in a refugee camp in the middle of nowhere.

Studying in these conditions is however hard, along with the obvious health problems that plague everyone here – I have not studied for a week due to my seventh episode of malaria since I came to South Sudan. However I am lucky in that the humanitarian workframe means it is quite easy to take a couple of months off, as contracts are often for a six month period only, and people understand the need for rest and recuperation. So in one month I will be taking two months off to live in Cairo, study, enjoy not living in a tent, eat a lot of food that is not goat stew, beans and rice (our staple diet), and hopefully feel well prepared to start thinking about my assignments.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and read another chapter of Environment, Health and Sustainable Development and then go fish the giant millipedes out of my tent and go to sleep  :)

Nadia is studying the Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health by distance learning. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in South Sudan.

13 thoughts on “New Student from the Newest Country

  1. Hello Nadia,

    Great job you are doing out there…God bless you for your humanitarian services. I’d love to render such services in the near future whenever I have leave from work. Please contact me if any opportunity comes up. Good luck on you’re studies!

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  2. Hi Nadia,

    I am Emmanuel,it is nice to read this.I am also a student at UOL.I am in Bentiu- Rubkona.I thought I was the only person in South Sudan, but thank God you are next to me here.I will appreciate,if we could share more experiences.

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  3. Hi Nadia

    Really impressed with your valour and commitment to the basic needs of humanity. Just curious to know, did you really take this assignment by choice? I mean, whilst many of us find it difficult to cope with seemingly minor difficulties in absolutely comfortable city conditions, “daunting” would be an absolute understatement to describe the heroic efforts for a 25-year old!

    I’m sure your perseverence will not only help you complete your ‘masters’ but will take you much beyond. In the same breath, I think we all owe a lot to our alma mater, UoL for creating educational furtherence opportunities for students in the remotest corner of the world.

    Cheers

    KK

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  4. Hi Nadia, what an experience. We are colleagues in service to Humanity. My Name is Roseline, a Nigerian,live in FCT. I registered for Epidemiology. Am enjoying the module just that I have been finding it difficult to access my assignment. Though I think it is a technical problem ,as I am always requested to fill in username and password and as i do that, I couldn’t still log in. Good to hear your experiences. I work in a non profit organisation in Nigeria. it hasn’t been easy combining work and studies and meeting dead lines. what when you are enjoying what you are reading, it becomes part of you. More grease to your elbow.

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  5. Oh wow! I must commend you first on your job in south Sudan and precondition your drive to gain a deeper insight into public health as a whole inspite of the challenges you are facing. You have inspired me!

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  6. We have to lose something in order to achieve something in life.The pain and hard work surely fetch great results.I am some what like you .Doing distance education in home inspection from freedom business school at California .But a long way to the path of success.Your story is truly inspiring!!!Great work..

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  7. Hey Nadia , I am Asma from Pakistan.I have just registered for PG Certificate in Public Health. I finished my Pharm.D 3 years back and have a one year experience in Pharmaceuticals and 2 years experience in Public Health which will give a good base for my course work.I have been working in Heartfile which is a non-profit NGO think tank with a focus on policy analysis and innovative solutions for improving health systems in Pakistan.Here I am working as Hospital Liaison specialist in Heartfile Health Financing program which is an innovative mHealth-enabled health financing program, aimed at protecting the poor from catastrophic expenditures on healthcare. The program provides unparalleled transparency and efficiency and is being steadily up-scaled in Pakistan.
    I hope to find an interesting study group

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  8. Hi Nadia,
    Great story. All the best to you.Recently I read about something which knocks back malaria almost instantly. I will include the links at the bottom, they are both from the same site. Please know I am in no way affiliated with the sellers of the product in any way. You are making such a great sacrifice, I thought you should be empowered health wise in the process, so you can do more, give more and be more. Enjoy your vacation in Cairo and take care. Keep us posted on your adventures, cause they surely make a great read. God be with you and on behalf of all the refugees I wish to say thanks for all your efforts. I am from the Caribbean area, but I hate to see humanity in such a plight, and you are making a difference. Please find the links enclosed beneath.
    Dawn
    http://www.globalresourcealliance.org/malaria-control-programs

    http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs029/1102613013903/archive/1102949553921.html

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  9. Nadia, unlike you, I need to get back my student vibe….I join the Mathematics & Economics class a marathon eight years after I sprinted out of the Ms Journalism class at Columbia.

    And, Emmanuel, you’re not alone. It’s always good to know there are lots of us around here in South Sudan figuring out how to get the student groove back. Much inspired to read. /b

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  10. Great Nadia.All those working as humanitarians are always blessed in one way or another.Like my self I’m a Nigerian and leave in Abuja but working as a Programme Assistant for SURE P Maternal and Child Health for a state in southern Nigeria.I just received my materials last week for MSc Public Health and really dont know were to start from.

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