Bilateral and multilateral scholarships programmes: Interview with Laura Boniface who is pursuing her studies for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academic (ADA) University |22 July 2021
‘I am so grateful to be in a university where they take care of the international students’
Question: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Laura:My name is Laura Boniface and I am 24 years old. I come from Pointe Larue but I went to school at Mont Fleuri from crèche to secondary level. I then attended the School of Advanced Level Studies (Sals). After I graduated, I did not immediately pursue tertiary studies but rather joined the world of work for three years. I worked at the Mauritian Commercial Bank (MCB) in Seychelles for two years then at Seven Degrees South for one year. After that, I decided to pursue my university studies and it has been two years since I came to Azerbaijan.
I can say that I am a very sportive person. I was part of the Seychelles national basketball team and I also participated in a number of sporting activities with different basketball teams in Seychelles.
Question: What course are you following?
Laura:At present, I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academic (ADA) University. I am in my second year of studies and in my second semester.
Question: What made you decide to choose Azerbaijan as a study venue?
Laura:To answer this question, I have to go back to the application process. At that time, I consulted those who are close to me as to whether I should apply for a scholarship. I had a friend who had studied in China and she explained the application procedures for a scholarship to me. From there, I started looking at the Agency for National Human Resource Development (ANHRD)’s Facebook page as well as their website and the Seychelles NATION newspaper which also publishes the different scholarships on offer. I saw the offer to study in Azerbaijan which was in partnership with the ANHRD, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seychelles as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Azerbaijan. I decided to apply for the scholarship.
However,Azerbaijan was not the only place I sent an application to. I also applied for scholarships offered by the Chinesegovernment as well as the one offered by the Indian government. At that point, I made a promise with God that I would take the first offer that I receive from the three applications sent out. At the same time, I was researching about Azerbaijan with the ANHRD to ensure that it was a safe venue because prior to seeing the advert in the newspaper, I had not heard about Azerbaijan.
Coincidentally, the university in Azerbaijan was the first to contact me. While I was completing my formalities to go to Azerbaijan, I was contacted by representatives from both the Chinese embassy and the Indian High Commission, informing me that I had been successful in my application. But because of the promise I had made, I decided to continue with my procedure for Azerbaijan as I have faith in my Father above and up to now everything is going really well.
Question: How did you find the application process for your scholarship?
Laura:I was always looking at the ANHRD’s website and Facebook page as well as the Seychelles NATION for scholarship offers. It was on one of the three mediums that I saw the advert for Azerbaijan. After that, I made my application which was forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seychelles which in turn sent it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Azerbaijan. After I was awarded the scholarship, there was constant communication between myself, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Azerbaijan, ADA University and my desk officer at the ANHRD.”
Question: Did you find it easy to adapt to the culture in Azerbaijan?
Laura: When you first arrive, there is a feeling of homesickness for the first month or so where you miss the surroundings you are used to. But, I am so grateful that I am in a university where they take care of international students. We have our own committeewhich organises many activities for us such as meet and greet.
However, with the current situation there are certain restrictions on organising activities. Nonetheless, during normal circumstances they organise activities that enable us to adapt to the way of life and the culture in Azerbaijan.
At the same time, the people here are very friendly and respectful towards women. For example, the men will get up on the bus and offer you their seat. The people will also approach you and speak to you, as they are intrigued about where you come from and how you came to know about Azerbaijan. So there is no discrimination. Itherefore did not find it difficult to adapt to the culture here.
In addition, I was placed in a dorm room with a student who came from the Maldives who had been in Azerbaijan for one year. So she was able to explain how things work in Azerbaijan and she helped me to meet a lot of people including other students from the Maldives. To note, there are a lot of Maldivian students here.
Question: What were the main challenges for you?
Laura: Communication was the biggest challenge I encountered. Here they prefer to speak Russian rather than English. So, everywhere you go you will encounter some communication problems when people are trying to learn more about you. However, things are changing and more people are trying to communicate in English. I walk with google translation on my phone or I use sign language to try to communicate what I want to buy in the shops.I would say that the language barrier is my main challenge here.
Question: What is the medium of study at the university?
Laura: The course I am following is conducted in English and therefore I had to have a certain level of English to be able to proceed with the degree. I had to undertake an English exam at the university and it is only after I passed the exam that I was permitted to enrol onthe study programme.
Question: Would you recommend Azerbaijan as a study venue to prospective students?
Laura:Definitely because Azerbaijan is a very peaceful place. It is a safe place and it is very comfortable. Compared to other countries I have visited or seen in the news or researched about, Azerbaijan for me is among the top countries in terms of safety. For example, there is a place here called Sadrak Market, if I go there with the intention of visiting five shops, I may end up visiting only one shop. This is because in the first shop, the shop owner will want to talk to me and here there is a culture that when someone is having a conversation with you, he/she will offer you tea. Therefore, you end up sitting and drinking tea with them and you lose track of time. By the time you finish, it’s already time to go back.
I know that there are some concerns because of the war that occurred in the country recently, but it has never affected me as a student. I have not heard any bombs or seen any fighting. This is because the fighting that was happening was very far from where I am staying. If it was not for news outlets or social media, I would not have known that there was fighting going on in Azerbaijan.
Question: Is there anything you would like to add?
Laura: I would advise future students not to be afraid to come to Azerbaijan because of what you have seen or heard in the news. It is a really safe and comfortable place. Like any country, you have to take precautions when you are going out. With that being said, I have never felt any pressure or restriction to be home by a certain time because it is very safe here. Like myself, new students will be shocked when they arrive in Azerbaijan with regards to the culture and the friendliness of the people.
Contributed by the ANHRD