Can you tell us a little about yourself (e.g., where you are from, your work experience and sector – please indicate that you have two daughters so we can link this question with the others)?
My name is Alister Memory Kambamura from Zimbabwe, Southern Africa. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in development policy here at KDI School, with a double concentration in sustainable development and international development. Moreover, I am an economist by profession, being employed by the Ministry of Finance as a principal economist. I have been working in this position for 10 years. I am a married woman with two beautiful daughters.
Everyone at KDIS has been separated from their loved ones when coming all the way to Korea to pursue their graduate degree. In your case, you also have been separated from your two daughters. Was it difficult to make the decision to come here? What has been the toughest part of your journey?
The decision to come here was very difficult to make given the distance and time for which I would be away. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic likewise made this a tough decision. While coming here was a positive move for me, as I could enhance my academic skills, in turn enabling me to progress my career, the idea of leaving my family for such a long time caused me considerable anxiety. I was unsure whether my family would be able to cope without me and how I would cope on my own.
In your country, how easy or difficult is it for women with kids to attend graduate school abroad? In your personal experience, what helped you make this decision (e.g., support from your family, husband, etc.)?
Women in my country are managing to pursue their academic journeys worldwide regardless of their family status. What is most important is having a strong support system in the form of your family, as in my case. My husband and my other family members worked together to ensure the kids would not be too greatly affected by my absence.
For other prospective students who also have kids and are planning to come to KDIS, could you share how you maintained your family bonds despite the distance?
Constant communication is key to keeping the family together despite the long distance. Today, thanks to technology, communication is easier, as it can be done through the use of various devices. Despite the time difference and school pressure, I devote some of my spare time to talking to my family and sharing important moments so that my absence is not felt.
What advice or remarks you would give to others who are thinking about applying to KDIS but are hesitating because they have children (e.g., you can say that your kids are also learning from this experience, that you settled on this decision once they grew up a bit, etc.)?
As a parent, it is always difficult to be separated from your loved ones, but in making this decision, I considered the wider picture. The overall gain from the experience, whereby you can create a better future for your children, is a point of strength. The entire experience is a learning opportunity for both your kids and you, the parent. When deciding to apply, it is most important to ensure that you have a strong support system and are selecting the proper time for this journey – for example, based on the age of your kids, etc. Additionally, you could take advantage of shorter programs, finishing your studies before you know it!
Now that you are completing your studies, do you believe the journey has been worthwhile?
This has been an amazing experience. The program has provided me with an opportunity to develop my capacity to design and implement economic and social policies and further improve my research skills as the key attributes to making informed and evidence-based policy decisions. Furthermore, I managed to discover and learn more about divergent cultures and traditions from across the globe. This experience enabled me to develop my professional and interpersonal skills, which will be key in my career progression. Being exposed to various professions, cultures, and languages has helped me to broaden my knowledge beyond the vision of a single nation.