Celebrating international alumni during Global Week
This week marks Global Week at the University where we celebrate the diversity of people who make up our student and alumni community.
Our alumni community is made up of people from all over the world. Hear from some of our international alumni who made the journey from Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda and Taiwan to study at Portsmouth. They’ve each made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Ritah NamagandaMSc Film and Television, 2018
Senior Producer, Watoto Childcare Ministries
The decision to take a career break and pursue further studies is not necessarily an easy one and neither is the decision to study as a foreign student. When I was looking for a university to pursue my master’s degree, I was looking for a place I’d feel at home. One that would give me both an education and lifetime of experience and memories. I would like to think that Portsmouth found me.
I found out about Portsmouth at an education fair back home. The representative was friendly and did everything he could to make sure I had all the support I needed to make an informed decision about my studies. This stood out for me as I was looking for more than a university; I was looking for a place I could feel at home whilst taking on rigorous research.
As an international student, you don’t want to spend all your time in the classroom as you can get homesick and a bit lonely. Finding this balance can be a bit tricky so it helped that there were active societies and clubs I could get involved in. I’m glad I volunteered with the international student’s café that brought together different international students. It’s like the world was brought to me in one place.
I enjoyed going on trips that were organised by the café and Global Office. I met people who had similar interests and introduced me to the Christian union and badminton societies. These eventually became my support system. My friends and I formed a travel buddy club organising different trips in England.
My fondest memory that we all regretted was accepting to go on a trip during the Easter holiday. Little did we know we would have coursework deadlines right after the holiday, so we spent most of the time reading on buses and trains in between our commutes from one city to another. It was challenging but a fun trip. Luckily, we all passed, eventually!
The other fond memory I had is the time my friend Ayu and I decided to go for a walk on Southsea Common on what seemed like a favourably good day during our second week of being in Portsmouth. Ayu was from Indonesia and we met on the Portsmouth Facebook page that was set up to meet and interact with other applicants. We knew from the get-go that we would be good friends and we still are. Anyway, a few minutes into the walk it suddenly became sunny, cold and so windy! Poor Ayu was so cold and only had a little sweater but the funny thing was how the wind literally blew us off the road and we spent 5 whole minutes hugging so we would create a stronger force against the wind. Coming from a tropical country, this was one of few things I miss about the British weather. Who would have thought?
Since graduating, life’s been a rollercoaster but mostly a fun one. I was lucky enough to have secured a job back in Uganda right before graduation with the help of the employability department. Even though dealing with reverse cultural shock was a reality I was not ready for, I’m grateful for the support of friends, family and even support we still receive from Portsmouth after graduation. I am a Chevening alumni scholar so engaging with the activities of alumni in Uganda gives me purpose and fulfilment, especially during the uncertain time we live in.
I also work as a Senior Producer for Watoto Childcare Ministries; a charity organisation that takes care of orphaned children and vulnerable HIV positive women. My primary career interest has always been film and so I’m privileged to be able to tell stories in these times.
The time I spent at Portsmouth gave me some of the best memories and experiences I have to date in my life. Some of my closest friends and most valuable networks I have now were formed during my time there.
Chea Yeong GohBSc (Hons) Criminology with Psychology, 2014
Resource Manager, TAO Consulting Limited
As a native speaker of Mandarin, I struggled through the language barriers in the first two months. Special thanks to my lovely British flatmates in Langstone Flat 9, my course mates and lecturers. I was well taken care of and thus my English remarkably improved in a short period of time.
I joined clubs and societies, ie choir, dance club, squash club, Malaysian society and international cafe. I enjoyed the time spent together with friends during club activities. I also did volunteer work in HMP Winchester, worked in a Chinese restaurant and a local store to gain life experience, to serve the local community and to explore different cultures. Another remarkable memory as a UOP student was that Portsmouth was the place I found Christ and became a Christian.
Getting a job in the UK has always been a dream. I almost got the chance of being a prison officer; however, things didn’t go as planned. Having returned to my home country, Malaysia, I’m currently settling down in an international talent management consulting firm. The life experience I gained in Portsmouth built me the confidence in dealing with clients around the world. The pandemic has shown we can still be connected digitally and has trained us to be more agile in dealing with the diversity and ambiguity of the future.
James KisoroMSc Geographical Information Systems, 2015
Managing Director, Billbrain Technologies
One of the fondest memories I have of Portsmouth is winning the University of Portsmouth World Cup Tournament played by international students a few weeks after arriving at the University. I still have, and greatly treasure, the medal I won together with my teammates.
Knowing Portsmouth was for me; it was when I searched for the universities offering the course that I wanted, and finding that among the recommended Universities to choose from by my scholarship provider, the University of Portsmouth was among the 2 options. In reaching out to both, I must say it was the University of Portsmouth that sent me a swift response and helped to easily guide me through the admission process.
I could say the city’s footballing history also partly played into my choice!
When I graduated in July 2015, I returned to my home country Uganda and resumed my former role of ICT Administration with one of the public Universities in Uganda – Makerere University. This was a position I held until the end of 2018 and from where I moved on to focus on teaching, research and consultancy work.
I’m now a private lecturer with Makerere University, where I have been teaching since 2017. I also run a private consultancy firm – Billbrain Technologies which, as of January 2020, gave birth to a private institute: Billbrain Institute of Technology that is steadily growing and taking root.
I was nominated for the UK Alumni Awards 2020, where I emerged as a Global Finalist in the Entrepreneurial category, and I’ve also been nominated for the USA Department of State – Young African Leaders’ Initiative fellowship: a programme aimed at empowering nominees with leadership skills for social, public, and entrepreneurial transformation of Africa, from which I graduated from earlier this month.
Mijide KemoliMA Illustration, 2019
Founder, Keeke Art
My experience at the University of Portsmouth is one of the most memorable ones I have had yet and to this day, I miss the city and all the unique things that made living there so amazing.
When I first got to Portsmouth, I was leaving the warm summer weather of my motherland, Kenya, for the cold autumn weather of Europe and at first I thought I had made a wrong choice in going to the UK for further studies. I wondered how I would ever make it through the winter and adjust to life in this foreign land. The food, climate, accents, routine…pretty much everything was a massive shift from what I was already accustomed to.
However, once I started classes at the university and became acquainted with my tutors as well as my classmates, I felt right at home. The warmth of the people that came from different corners of the UK and Europe made me feel a lot more settled and enthusiastic about what this city held in store for me and it made me realise that we aren’t as different as I had initially thought. We may come from different parts of the globe and be familiar with different kinds of cultures but at the end of the day, we were all students doing our best to make the most of the degree programme we had enrolled in. Once my mindset shifted, I came to embrace the city and all that it came with and before I knew it, I fell in love with this quaint city by the sea.
While I was studying, I was fortunate enough to get a job at a restaurant/member’s club not too far from the campus and there, I met even more students from UoP who came from different parts of the world. Other than my university study, this was one of the highlights of my stay because my colleagues became like family to me and we established such a strong bond that to this day, I still keep in touch with some of my closest friends from there. We would take walks to the seaside or go to restaurants along Commercial Road to catch up over a meal and laugh together and I was privileged to have a few of them attend my graduation ceremony back in 2019. It was a wonderful time!
Now, nearly two years after graduating and in the midst of a raging global pandemic, I am thankful to see the hard work I put in while at UoP being put to good use. While I was a student, I designed a unique board game for my major project, aimed at educating audiences on road safety in a fun and engaging way. At the time, I made this game because I enjoyed the process and wanted to challenge myself more creatively. Now, I am happy to say that I am a socio-educational board game developer that is creating tabletop game solutions for organisations and companies that wish to educate their audiences on various social issues in a fun way. I am doing so under my business, Keeke Art, and I am humbled to witness its growth as well as the increasing interest from audiences far and wide to engage with us. I have also been able to add a new game to my roster and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful for my Portsmouth experience.
Sheila KuoBA (Hons) Media Studies and Entertainment Technology, 2011
Production Development Assistant, Walt Disney Company (Taiwan) Ltd
My favourite memory of Portsmouth was having BBQs on the common, all the walks to the seafront and old Portsmouth and taking the hovercraft to the Isle of Wight…ok, I’d also like to admit – shopping at Gunwharf!
I was accepted to study the BA Media Studies & Entertainment Technology degree which, at the time, was a relatively new course that wasn’t offered by other universities and I was one of the handful international students on the course. Portsmouth was a young university then but that’s precisely why it was perfect for the course I wanted to do. Plus, Portsmouth really is a great city to live in! I loved Portsmouth so much that I stayed to do my MA straight after my BA.
After I moved back to Taiwan, I started working for my father who owns one of the biggest and oldest production companies in Taiwan. I was an Executive Drama Producer and the Executive Assistant to the CEO.
In January 2020, I started working as a Production Development Assistant Manager at the Walt Disney Company (Taiwan) Ltd. I’m responsible for the assessment and development of scripted productions (drama series) and will soon be overseeing and developing original Mandarin content for the new STAR brand under the Disney+ streaming service.