Beyond academics

26-11-14

A strong international network is an important asset, says Ghanaian Danida fellow Festival Godwin Boateng. It is less about ‘who you know’ but more about ‘who knows you’. Danida fellow Festival Godwin Boateng tells his story of the importance of an international network and how it is possible to build it at the cosmopolitan Danish universities.

By Festival Godwin Boateng

I had a huge sigh of relief when I finally received my travelling visa. The long held desire to study  abroad had been realised – it was only a matter of days before  leaving for Denmark.

My key considerations in deciding on what and where to study were mainly course content, career focus and conducive environment for learning and of course sponsorship.

But the desire to travel, live in a different country and experience a different culture and lifestyle, learn new ideas and ways of thinking were also burning high.

So in my probative evaluation of what the scholarship potentially could benefit me, my mind’s eye could only imagine a fulfilled desire to study abroad with my expensive tuition and accommodation fees as well as air tickets and living expenses going to be catered for by Danida.

Of course, as stated in the call for applications, I also knew that I was going to gain “A good knowledge of the Danish society, culture and values and establish lasting relationships with Danish students”.

I imagined nothing more.

Shocked

Upon my arrival and commencement of my studies in Denmark, I have been overwhelmed by something I never imagined. In one of our introductory classes, we were asked to introduce ourselves. I assumed that the majority of the students were Danes – after all we were in a Danish University. To my dismay, we the international students, outnumbered the Danes.

The class was made up of students from India, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Romania, Kenya, Poland, Germany, Italy, Cameroon, Canada, the US, the UK and several other countries with Denmark being just one of them.

As we all might have learned by now, Denmark is a home to top notch universities with beautiful contemporary programs. The schools are not only well resourced, but they also have efficient non-academic staff to support teaching and learning.

Just as sweet nectars attract birds, Danish universities attract brilliant students and lecturers from all over the globe.

The leaping advantage

In the scholarship announcement Danida underestimated that by studying in Denmark we will “establish lasting relationships with [ONLY] Danish students” – the networking advantage is far in excess of what Danida conceived. The cosmopolitan nature of Danish Universities means that we are part of a huge population of culturally distinct international students, availing us platforms for networking and for building lifelong social connections.

Thus, beside academic excellence, Danish universities offer an enviable opportunity to join an international faculty of future global leaders, make friends and establish contacts with people from countries we may never have the chance to visit in our lifetime.

I will at the risk of sounding pedantic, restate that in this ever more competitive world, whilst having certificates with all As is exceedingly admirable, we all have learned the hard way that certificates and transcripts do not always do the magic – not even on most occasions.  Nowadays, it is even less about ‘who you know’ but more about ‘who knows you’.

Global North is cold – the contacts are not

The world is still largely meritocratic, but the ever growing levels of meritocracy and fierce competition have valorised the need for information, recommendations and contact persons. Today, trust and previous knowledge about people are extremely crucial to annexing most top positions and juicy opportunities. Knowing whom to call can save time, money and effort. Thus having both local and international contacts has become more of a valuable social asset today than ever and it is the latter that our studying in Denmark easily reifies for us.

It is no secret that the weather here in Europe, and generally in the global North, is unbearably cold. But believe me, given how the world has become socio-geo-economically and politically configured, having European or Western contacts and, for that matter, friends from any other parts of the world is not a cold asset at all.

Let’s connect

So as we busily pursue good grades, it may be worthwhile if we also considered making some good friends as well.

Sometimes, idealistic people are put off by the whole idea of networking as they see it as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantages. But as avowed by one US Supreme Court Judge, Sonia Sotomayor, virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people.

The people we write group assignments with and the lecturers who supervise our projects and thesis and also handle the various courses we choose to read as well as the funny guys and the beautiful girls we hang out with at the various Fredagsbar (Friday bars) are as good as the colleagues living in the DFC Hostel for networking.

Find all my active e-mail addresses below, let us share contacts, email addresses and connect on the various social media, who knows, one day, just an e-mail or a simple phone call may make the difference.

You don’t have to agree with me on this today, but I believe that either future will right me or I will write to you in future.

Let me end by quoting Mike Davidson: “Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you”.

………………………………..

FESTIVAL GODWIN BOATENG
Danida Fellow
MSc Global Studies & International Development Studies
Roskilde University, Denmark
gfb@ruc.dk / bfsvl1988@gmail.com / bfsvl@yahoo.com
Facebook: Godwin Fsvl Boateng

Go back to all stories