Name: MOHAMMED ELSHEIKH MOHAMMED AHMED
Host Institution: LILONGWE UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES BUNDA CAMPUS
Course: MSc. (AQUACULTURE SCIENCE) THESIS
Thesis: EFFECT OF BINDING AGENTS ON STABILITY AND NUTRITIONAL AVAILABILITY OF FORMULATED FEED IN OREOCHROMIS SHIRANUS (PISCES: CICHLIDAE)
Brief story about studying abroad
My name is Mohammed Elsheikh Mohammed Ahmed. I am a Sudanese and a member of staff at University of Gezira, Faculty of animal production in Sudan and currently in Malawi having just completed my Master of Science degree in Aquaculture in the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and natural resources (LUANAR), Malawi.
I arrived in Malawi on 8th November 2013. I had no idea what lay ahead but within me I knew it was going to be an experience of a lifetime. I wasn’t wrong. It has been a two year journey with memories that will never be erased from my mind. When I arrived together with three other coursemates (two young energetic men from Burndi and Zambia and one young energetic lady from Ethiopia) the warm welcome of the staff soared my hopes that I had made the right choice in applying for this scholarship. Malawians are very social people full of courtesy. They said I resembled their own but the mere fact that I walk briskly and fast gave me away. Back in Sudan we greet but not very formally as in Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! No! We go something like hi, hallo, sasa! We rarely stop to exchange pleasantries. We wave at people as a form of greeting and it really doesn’t matter whether you wave with the right or the left hand. In Malawi, you stop to greet nicely, if you have to wave not with the left hand. The left hand doesn’t do anything! Dare you go to a shop and give the money to the shopkeeper with the left hand! Trouble come! I had to reorient myself to walk a little slower, greet properly, desist from using the left hand for waving at people, start every sentence with please and make sure before the sentence ends two or three other pleases appear somewhere.
The first week we ate in the restaurant we were introduced to when we arrived. The siima they eat was amazing. Mealtime was characterized by reddish without soup but with salt. The Siima was so soft while I thought I was going to die in Malawi not because of anything but because of food. Slowly I overcame. Pricewise, on average we were spending close to between 1000 – 1500 Malawian Kwacha on meals (approx. 3 Euros at the exchange rate then). We asked ourselves if this was sustainable and we concluded it wasn’t. We started to venture elsewhere and try local dishes. In Sudan we eat Egyptian bean (mixed with rice or bread) and I saw something like that at the place we had discovered. My other colleagues were sceptical about trying local dishes so they were still eating rice but at a cheaper price than the restaurant. I gathered courage and ordered for Beans with rice. The first bite of these beans caught me off guard. These were not Egyptian beans they had a different test and smell. They also had a lot of salt too. I just ate the rice, drank water and left. There was this young and beautiful Malawian lady at our Hostel, I narrated to her the incidence and she encouraged me. She told me to just continue eating these beans (in Malawi they are called Nyemba) and that with time I will love them. As I speak now, I enjoy Nyemba just as I do to Egyptian beans.
Academically, we were a class of 7. One of them was pursuing PhD (Ghanaians-Male). The rest was the MSc. cohort. The four of us under SHARE, Two under RUFORUM one was self-sponsored. In total we were one lady and six gentlemen. The class was very interesting. However when the assignments started coming in a torrent with every lecturer wanting to deliver the best to these international students, I started to miss home. I would imagine myself in my house relaxing yet here I was spending sleepless nights to beat some deadline. I love excellence but for once I found myself doubting if I was going to sail through with the flying colours am used to. The grading system was another issue. Here in LUANAR they use the GPA system and a GPA of less than 2.0 at the end of an academic year for a post grad student means you can’t proceed to the second year for you to do research work. How my heart would beat! I had never encountered this GPA thing before and I was so confused. All I knew was that in order to get a GPA of 2.0 and above one needs to make not less than C- (60%) in all the courses taught. In Sudan 60% is a B (it meant more was expected of me). To get an A here in LUANAR one needs to score 85% and above. In Sudan if you get 75% an A is yours. In Sudan, LUANAR is renowned for high academic standards, I came to meet its match in Malawi. The atmosphere is so serene it just ‘breaths’ books. No noise, no rowdy students and they have a saying this is LUANAR FOR YOU meaning nobody jokes around here. I heard loud and clear and toed their line. My confidence soared when we did our first test and believe me I scored all. I knew ahhhh am on the right track. The lecturer student relationship here is so relaxed. The respect is there but the friendship also exists. I learnt a lot too from the students in terms of Malawian culture.
Socially, economically it was shocking to buy two onions (I started cooking hahahahahaa) for two hundred kwacha. One hundred kwacha is equivalent to 2 Sudanese pound and for 2 Sudanese pound I can get a quarter kilo of onions unless things have really changed while am away. A small loaf of bread whose size is not standardized and so keeps changing with the mood of the baker goes for 300 kwacha. Everything starts at fifty Kwacha moving upwards. At the stores in town, the owner sits infront of the shop. As the client you enter leaving the seller at the door. This was strange because at home the seller always behind the counter. Sellers have very little patience for bargaining. They insist on the price tag on the item. In the supermarket you queue two times. The first time to pay and the second time for goods to be verified one by one. If you are in any hurry kindly buy your goods off the counter and not in a supermarket in Lilongwe. The campus is big so taxis and shuttle buses operate from Lilongwe town to the campus.
I have had the opportunity to travel throughout Malawi during our study trips. It’s a beautiful country with quite a good forest cover compare to Sudan. The trip to the northern part of Malawi and the southern region were very exciting.
I enjoyed my stay despite the challenges which were all overcomeable. I however wasn’t able to learn the language fluently but I can speak a few words especially thank you Zikomo. Thank you.