I have always loved studying. My mum sometimes reminds me that when I was in primary school and did not get an A, I would sob the whole day and cry. I wouldn’t say I was naturally ‘clever’, but hard work was installed in me.
Five years ago, last term of my degree in Biomedical Science. My research project was the last component to complete my degree. My supervisor, Mrs H, refused to offer any assistance. She didn’t come to the lab to show us how to hold a pipette, let alone explain to us what microvesicles were. She ignored all emails. With four weeks to go, I knew that if a divine intervention did not occur ASAP, my final grade for my dissertation would be 0 and I would drop down to a third class degree. I remembered how three years prior, I had gotten a conditional offer to study medicine. The day my exams started, my dad passed away. I chose to not go to Uganda to bury my father, and focus on ‘passing my exams’. I ended up failing miserably, and my route was diverted to Biomedical Science. Is this how my journey was going to end once again?
One day in the lab, I bumped into a PhD student conversing with one of the lab technicians. The lab technician introduced me and said: “Vanessa is also doing a project in microvesicles”. That is how myself and Ahmed clicked and for the next three weeks, we worked long hours on my project and even stumbled upon a new scientific discovery. His supervisor, the professor was so impressed with my work; he invited me for an interview for a PhD position. The interview went well, and given an offer to commence in 3 months. Mrs H wanted to submit a proposal for a research paper using my results. She contacted me and asked if I could send it before the due date and that she would refer to me in the ‘abstract’. I told her that I no longer had the word version of my dissertation. Why would I help someone who offered me zero assistance? In hindsight, perhaps I should have sent it to her. Out of spite, she went to the professor and I don’t know what was discussed in that office, but he was no longer interested in having me on board. I never heard from him again.
By God’s grace, I ended up completing my degree with a 2:1. One day, one of the technicians called me in confidence and told me I was never to tell or show anyone what he was going to show me. I agreed. He told me that they had stored research projects in the office next to the lab and he found my dissertation. I saw the grade 87 % being crossed out with a red pen to 70%. I was heart-broken.
I knew that with my research project, I would be able to attend a better university for further studies. I got a place at one of the best universities in the world to pursue my masters. I had worked as a science technician at a secondary school, and used all the money I earnt to pay for the course. From the first day I started at the university, I felt like I didn’t belong. Perhaps it was because I was one of few women of colour on my campus. I worked extremely hard during that year and didn’t go out (only had money for my travel card and for my lunch).
When I received my results, I scored very highly on my thesis, but received 0 for all three exams. I knew the course was intense and challenging, but didn’t expect to fail that badly. I was informed I have failed the course, not allowed to see my test papers and to come back in a year to resit. During this year, I was not offered any help and had to pay for these resits. I spent an entire year studying whilst working at this point. I sat the exams and I received the same results. I was not allowed to appeal, not allowed to see my test papers and was not allowed to receive any form of diploma. All they were willing to do is issue a letter from admin that I ‘attended’ the university.
For me, that was the most painful situation I have ever been in. I worked immensely hard to raise the money, studied long hours to end up empty-handed. I cried to God, “Take me home, I am tired of these disappointments”. It was my heart’s desire that God would one day compensate me for the disgrace, pain and disappointments.
Two years went by and I was working in the cytogenetics lab at one of the London NHS hospitals. The NHS was funding a handful of employees to pursue a masters in Genetics (course I had previously done) at one of the affiliated universities. I believed God for restoration and my manager put me forward and I was given the grant to do the masters (part-time whilst working full-time). I was so thankful, as this is what I had asked Him for. However, the following week, I was offered a job in Amsterdam which was a stepping stone in my career and an offer I could not reject. Why has this job offer come at a time like this? As painful as it was, I rejected the masters offer and moved to Amsterdam.
For months I pondered upon whether I had made the right choice to leave the masters opportunity for a job. I still didn’t have peace about it, so I started looking for masters courses within my current field (pharmaceuticals). I applied for a distant learning masters course in Pharmaceutical Sciences at one the top UK University for studying Pharmacy. They offered me a place on the one year course. I couldn’t afford to work part-time, so this meant working 40 hours whilst pursuing a full-time masters. I took a leap of faith and paid the tuition fee. On the day of enrolment, I happened to stumble on a scholarship on the university site. This scholarship was a full academic scholarship. I had nothing to lose (I had already lost enough) and decided once again to take a leap of faith and submitted the forms. To my surprise, I was invited for a Skype interview with the professors. A week later, I was granted a full scholarship and my fees was reimbursed in full (this happened to be on my birthday). This was last year. Two weeks ago, I was awarded a distinction for my masters.
God is amazing, He is big. It is us who limit Him. He is the one who restores, honors and blesses. When He blesses, He does not hold back. He taught me how to hold unto Him during pain, to have faith for the impossible and to never let go of my heart’s desire. I thank God for the tribulations because out of it He has molded me, as well as birthed out a testimony glorifying Him.
For it is written:
The LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
Who would ever have thought that the girl who missed out on medical school, PhD, and a masters from a top university would one day complete her masters in one year with a distinction whilst working full-time on a full time scholarship? That could only be the hand of God!