Until recently, many people didn’t see STEM as a field that women should venture into. Many women who loved science, mathematics or dared to think about technology were seen as unusual or an outcast. In some extreme cases, they were called witches and burned. As the years went by, people subtly sought ways to discourage their girls from studying science. They felt that women were too fragile to concern themselves with such things. Today, the narrative has changed a great deal and more women are exploring the field of STEM and navigating it with so much passion and excellence. Despite the changing narrative, there are still a good number of people who feel like women shouldn’t be in STEM and so there’s still a huge gender gap in STEM. It’s because of this that I love to shed my spotlight on women in STEM who are breaking barriers and achieving amazing things.
Today, we will be chatting with an amazing feminist woman in STEM, Oluwasennla Adelusi, a Materials, and metallurgical Engineer. She’s an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Recipient: TRIBOS+. Currently, she’s studying for her Master’s at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Let’s hear from her.
1. How has your Erasmus experience been?
My experience… I feel like it’s been fun and easy. I am getting new experiences. First, of (all), the fact that I have to learn online and study online on a full-time basis is not something I’ve done before. So, that’s what I’m doing now compared to other scholars. They didn’t have that. They had to learn in class which would have also been nice. But the one we have, we’d appreciate it. So, it’s been cool. I’m getting to learn online. I’m getting to learn new stuff. The fact that I have to transition from one learning environment to the other even if it’s still online, it’s really good you know. From how it was at Leeds University in the UK, how the teaching was, how the whole program was there to how the modules are here. They’re different, it’s cool to learn more stuff. And I feel like that what this has been for me a learning experience. And I’m enjoying that learning experience, as much as it can be really hectic. Sometimes I have so many deadlines that I don’t even go out of my house at all. I’ve not been out on my house in a week or almost two right now. So, like, that’s how it’s been, even though I should actually be going out more. But when there’s a lot of work, there’s so much work. There are so many deadlines. And I always feel like, why am I going, what am I going to do? Yeah. So that’s that about my experience. It’s really been cool. And it’s been full of learning educational plus travel plus new things.
2. What is the best about being an Erasmus scholar, of course apart from full funding?
And then, the best thing about being an Erasmus Mundus scholar apart from the funding, I think it’s the multiple experiences it can give you. I feel like that’s just it if you go study in one place, you get that singular experience. If you are studying in different places, you get different experiences because you are going to, for example, I’m going to the UK. I’m meeting people in the UK. I’m interacting with people in the UK, interacting with lecturers in the UK. I visit places like London, I visit places like Brighton. I see places in the UK, you know, and there’s the way that experience is. There’s something it does to you. And then I’m here now in Ljubljana interacting with lecturers and people in a country where people hardly speak English. I’m interacting with different people; I’m seeing the city. I’m seeing new people, you know, it’s really fun. And I think these multiple experiences also let you see the world from different perspectives.
While I was in the UK, generally, particularly in London, there were a lot of black people. In London, I got to see many black people versus where I am now, you can hardly see any black person around. After I got here, it took me like a month before I saw a black person, that was not my classmate or someone I had met online. Like it took that long before I finally saw one black person.
And there’s this look of how you see people from different races looking at you and they’re looking at you from, you know, it’s not as much as you know racism or I’m looking down on you but in awe. You see some kids who have possibly never seen the black person in their life and they’re looking at you and they’re like, oh. They try to talk to you in a mixture of their language and English. It’s actually nice to have multiple experiences. You get to see people in different cultures, different beliefs, the ones where the you do not know, you know, it’s just beautiful. And I feel like the best thing about the Erasmus experience is being able to see them go through experiences. I’ve been able to go through several experiences, multiple experiences, It’s good. It’s one study program, but I’m traveling to different places. I’m able to experience it. For instance, we’re able to meet different people. I have friends in the UK now I’ve come here. And because I’m an international scholar, I not only meet people who are from this country, I meet people who are also from Italy, from Spain, from Lithuania, like, um, it’s beautiful. Yeah. It’s just beautiful. The funding is great because the funding makes the experience easier and more fun.
3. Plans after Masters…Ph.D. or workplace?
And then my plan after Master’s is, most likely to do a Ph.D. right now. I may further the research I’m going to be working on in my Master’s. It’s quite new and quite nice. I feel like I’ll like to repeat that, but I may work too, I’m not really sure or certain about that. So yeah, that’s the thing.
4. What do you think about a career in the academia?
And then the next question. How would I think I want a career in academia? Honestly, I don’t think I want to have a career primarily in academia. While I was much younger, I used to always talk. I read, I watched one movie and I saw a part where there was this person who works at a company who was invited as an associate professor. Yeah. That’s what he called it. It wasn’t, but there was an associate professor to lecture setting courses. And when I saw it, I was like, oh finally, I see what I would like. I would, I like to teach, of course, I would like to teach. I would like to like impact people. What, I don’t think I would want that to be like my sole, the only thing. I would like to do it as an aside. Like a part of what I do.
You know what I mean? I wouldn’t mind like doing something in academia, like being a lecturer or something, but I would want that to just be my main and overall goal. Maybe I could be a researcher and then, you know, research and stuff and then maybe teach and stuff like that. I guess I wouldn’t mind that.
5. Major lessons you have left since leaving the country?
What I’ve learned since I left the country. I realized that it’s easier for a person to blend in when the person has a lens that everybody has their own experiences and everybody’s reality can be different from yours. And that’s one thing I have been realizing that before I left Nigeria. People can’t believe the way you do. And you don’t press your beliefs on others. A lot of people do and it’s one thing that I always used to preach even before I traveled. And so coming here because I already have that mindset, it was easy for me to just integrate. Anytime, when I would complain about what your belief is, is when it’s appraised so that people, you know, when you’re, that’s, your belief is against people. It’s oppressive.
I think another lesson I’ve learned is it’s so easy to get past your privilege. So you have to just remember that in the smallest of ways, you may have the privilege. Many times when I was like, I would possibly just see privileged as a big deal as maybe the person’s just poor, but I was privileged. So it’s relative.
And so I’m learning that gradually and about how really privilege is relative. If someone’s telling me, oh, I need a certain amount of money and they’re expecting me to have it because once you are abroad, they just kind of look behind you. The amount of privilege you think you have when the reserves don’t have it, or this is how somebody needs something and I can only afford a certain amount and then I’m feeling bad. And I feel like that money is not going to do anything for the present. Whereas actually that money would actually do something for the person. And I can see him too much stuff. I think about it though. But then I think you see because this is too much, it was, I’m so sorry, but like my point, the money can actually make a difference. But because I’m seeing it from the privileged that I have, where things are actually expensive already. So if I’m sending this money to this person, I think it’s small, but actually for that person, it is quite a lot, you know, I have to sometimes address that. I don’t know if this works, but maybe we just keep, it’s just got all these things. I could say. Understanding privilege and how privilege is relatively diverse in class or diverse in financial stuff. It doesn’t have to be. Some of that privilege is another blessing could be that.
Another one is that people tell us that studying abroad is easier compared to studying in Nigeria. I feel like this is the lie. It is hard. You have to, I have to put in your hours to get that little. You have to put in your eyes, you have to study the material. You cannot, you know, it’s not for someone who just does copy-paste. You can’t do that.
You have to really read. You have to understand it. You have to explain it. It’s really, really hard in that sense. It was hard because first off you don’t have enough materials. It was hard because they expected to cry and not understand. It was hard because sometimes they don’t even really understand what they’re telling you. Or it could be hard because you, you, but you don’t have facilities to understand how to read. And then they expect you to know how to word and be able to explain the way you don’t have to have the practical it’s practical, but you don’t have that.
So I feel, what is hard about it is different. Yeah. It’s different in that it just a lot of work. I feel like it’s not easier if, in fact, you can fail, I used to hear of a student who was dropped out of his AME Erasmus program because he could not keep up. He could not keep up. He was emailed and they said, sorry, because you cannot keep up. We are dropping you from this Erasmus. No more scholarship, no matter like that happens to a person because it actually can be hard. I don’t think it’s like Nigeria. Yeah.
I don’t think so. But like, it can be really hard. What does, what is hard is different. So sometimes maybe people should stop putting pressure, it’s not so easy.
6. The thing about no place being like home what does that mean to you?
What does it mean to me? I think it’s more about them. Small, small things. Yeah.
So no place like home is about the small things. I think it’s the small things. Like for example, catfish, I think I miss catfish. I miss that. I really miss Nigeria Shwarma. I miss meat pie. I miss fried yam. I miss that. I think that’s the food platform. That also the next thing is localism. I think then you think maybe relationships and friends, you know, when your people who you really love are there, you may want to be with those people. But the reasons, if you do not have people that you really love there, there’s nothing to miss apart from the food. Yeah.
7. Do you have plans to return to Nigeria?
Do I have plans to return to Nigeria? Like permanently? Maybe not now. I used to have plans of like joining mainstream politics running for positions and stuff. And I feel like I would still do that, but for now, I don’t have permanent plans of going back to Nigeria. Yeah. With the kind of educational plans I have right now, work plans I have right now outside. Not yet I may visit for like a while but definitely not right now. I don’t see that happening in the next few years.
8. What is your advice for scholarship enthusiasts?
Yeah. My advice for scholarship enthusiasts is that they should keep trying like just reapplying and give themselves time out after they have applied for something. And it really does help. You feel bad? Give yourself a time out, Yeah, do that. And then another thing I would say is to find out information, dig like the internet is so free for you. You can ask people so many questions, especially these universities on these programs. You research, find out information as much as you can, if you just dig, check their website, read every readable, find out information.
So firstly, I said, can you give yourself time outs?
Number two, I said, you can find out information as much as possible.
Number three, plan, have a plan, and have a strategy.
What’s your focus? Are you, do you really care about the scholarship that funds everything? You get a scholarship that funds your tuition fees, travel plans and they have to give living expenses.
Do you want something that takes care of your tuition fees, plus your living expenses, but you’d have to suck up all your travel plans and all that have that full cost depending on the one you want?
And of course, another thing is the kind of place you want to go to. Do you particularly want to USD particular loans, Canada? No. Your focus, you got a person who doesn’t have money to take an exam or anything you shouldn’t be thinking of the particular country. So have a plan, have a strategy, know what it is you want, but um, you know what it is you want, it makes it easy to seek out scholarships.
You can decide since I want the one that pays for everything or I can apply to scholarships, like maybe to save money, I can apply to scholarships like MasterCard Erasmus. If I want the one that does partial scholarships, I know what I want is set in a country and then apply to universities in that country. For some, you might not need to write any exam, perhaps you might get credit assistance. Some scholarships also require IELTS.
9. You are a feminist, what motivated you in this line?
I am a feminist normally. I don’t know what motivated me to be a feminist. I just feel like I’ve always been a feminist. I just found the name later. Right from when I was younger. I was 15 at the time when we had the paint to do in school. The person who was best at that thing was the girl in our house. And after she had not done it for months, before they find out like the final weeks to the competition, they were like, oh, she could not be doing to do because she’s a girl. And I stood my ground. That since I was born, I did everything. I made sure she did it at the end, make my team one. At that time. I did not know the, what feminism. In fact, at that time had not even heard about anything like that. You get what I knew.
I did not believe in certain nonsense stuff that they used to do, etc. About women or girls, even in the class, I was class captain for a while. Like I just did not believe in those things. So for me, I have always been a feminist right. From when I can remember, I just did not see the word and I found the word later. So I think that’s just it for me. It’s about that.
10. Can you tell us about your experience as a lady in STEM?
And then my experience as really being a stem, I don’t know, it’s just not regular. The only times when I pretty much had comments and talks about how you shouldn’t be in this field, maybe, maybe sometimes an hour in them, undergraduates, um, you know, graduate studies where the black navigators, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, or one time doing a field assignment or practical.
And I’m like, sorry, what do you mean? Like, things like that. Yeah. But I don’t know. I’ve always been gingered and inspired because I used to have good grades even in secondary school when I was in science class. So it was it easy to easy for me to see, maybe there are certain opportunities that I was not well of, you know, maybe because like my parents, for example, maybe my dad would have preferred. I will be a doctor, you know, but then that’s also, that’s also, that’s, that’s also science.
Well, really I’ve not experienced so much, um, negativity as regards that. And I just hope I do not experience much more. And I feel like the reason why I don’t is because of the kind of mindset I have already. And that’s why I refused to even look at it and things. I know that many people, which is also like privilege, many people know that places have been rejected and jobs they wanted because they’re women or they’ve not been inspired to pursue what they want or their parents.
I know. So I feel like my privilege exists in that. So I would not say of course those things don’t exist out there. See, I personally have not experienced so much of that. So in general, I am always encouraged by displays of people that I see who I’ve been greeting since fam people who, you know, achieving good stuff, women who are doing good stuff in Nigeria, all around the wall, you know, research-wise, career-wise, it’s, it’s a beautiful inspiration for me. And I hope it continues. And I continue to see these things.
This has been quite an interesting chat with Seunnla, examining life, the Erasmus scholarship experience, Nigeria, people’s reaction to a woman in Stem, etc. To connect with Seunnla, reach out to her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SeunnlaAdelusi
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/oluwaseunnla-adelusi/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/SeunnlaAdelusi