Our second interview is with Brenda Lapobo, a trailblazer in the world of education.
"Brenda - It's been wonderful to see you grow in confidence and make Cambridge your own! I can't wait to see where you conquer next!"
Could you tell us a bit about your story before you started at Cambridge?
My journey to Cambridge is something I cannot really capture in words. It’s more of a miracle than a reality because never in my life did I ever think that I would be in one of the greatest universities in the world.
After completing my undergraduate course at Makerere University in Kampala (capital of Uganda), I decided to go back to the rural areas of Uganda where I found a job with a local non-governmental charitable organisation. I started working as a community coach sensitizing people on education. Being an example and seeing what I myself had gained through education,
I thought I could be someone who wholeheartedly advocate for other children, especially girls, to receive better education.
What was it from this experience that sparked your interest in studying Education?
This is a community which has suffered from war for over 20 years, and the only way to regain back their lost hope, I believe, is through education. My encounter with them, intrigued my interest in furthering my own education with the hope that I would become a change maker for people in these circumstances.
I shared my dream with my uncle who has been so pivotal in my education since I was a child because I lost both parents at a very young age. I knew books were important and can take you places you have never dreamed of. I had an instinct which kept telling me that things will be alright, and I had to give it a go. My uncle and I decided to search for scholarships, fortunately, we came across the Rowan Williams studentship (Cambridge Trust).
I had never heard about this studentship before, nor anybody who knew about it. The misconception we all had was that people from my background rarely get scholarships to prestigious universities, and if any, then through connections. I had no one to connect me -- I just had a little hope that miracles do happen.
I searched randomly for scholarships around the world. I ended up applying for more than 5 scholarships across the world. To me applying would not cost a thing so every free time after work I would work on applications. I know, sometimes applying can be hard. It is a very tedious process. Persevere. It requires resilience. Being a believer helped me a lot, I had put all my trust in God and my favourite line was always… ‘If it is meant to be it will be’.
And yes! The unimaginable happened.
How would you describe your first few months at Cambridge?
Well… Life at Cambridge was weird. During my first months I felt more of a stranger; perhaps I was still recovering from the shock that I am in one of the best universities in the world. Secondly, I had imposter syndrome. I was nervous, scared and confused at where to even start. I had not been to Europe before! The weather was cold compared to Africa, and I had no friends. I was afraid of how I was going to cope, but thank God, before I knew it, I was surrounded by amazing people who shared similar stories to mine – fellow Rowan Williams scholars.
I gained my confidence back at the Rowan Williams’ welcome event. I met people with backgrounds I could relate to, and I realised I was not alone. I later joined a Christian community called Delight through a friend I had met at the RW event. My family started to grow bigger and bigger. Cambridge, like everywhere else, is amazing with friends around you and a lot more boring if you hold yourself back. Do not be afraid to ask for help from people around you, most especially your college tutor and faculty heads. They will offer you solace and escapism in times of difficulties and how to get away with things.
Has Cambridge affected the size of your dreams, imaginations and your own potential?
Academically, Cambridge has nurtured my ambitions and opened my eyes to view the world from a different perspective. It has stimulated my intellectual curiosity through engagement with people from such diverse backgrounds. It is a life-changing opportunity, a chance I would grab even ten times. It has changed my story, my career and personal growth. The world has changed, and the only way to navigate around it, is through knowledge; as it slips through the web, l couldn’t get enough of Cambridge and if given another chance I would still grasp it. But I know that other people also need the chance I had. I am forever grateful to the Cambridge Trust for this great opportunity to be part of the Rowan Williams scholars’ community.
What are your ambitions for the future?
My dreams have become bigger with the knowledge and experiences I have got.
I have realised that all can be achieved with time.
I am very passionate about improving schools, most especially for girls who share the same story as mine. I hope to one day establish schools, orphanages, and community centres to support children from disadvantaged communities. I hope to be the light for other children, the hope for the hopeless and to always give back to the community.
With all that I have received, I want to do the same for others in the future -- light another person’s candle. So help me, God.
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