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Alumnus, Thembelihle Isaac Hlongwane shares on his exciting journey to Ireland which culminated as a result of being awarded the Kader Asmal scholarship to study for his Master’s in Public Relations with New Media at the Munster Technological University for the academic year 2023-2024. The euphoric Hlongwane started his academic journey in  September 2023 which will conclude in August 2024.

The Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme is a fully funded scholarship opportunity offered to South African students to study at master’s level in Ireland’s world-renowned Higher Education Institutions.

It is also a flagship programme of the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa. The Kader Asmal Fellowships covers university application, tuition, and examination fees. Economy travel to and from one’s country of residence to Ireland; and a monthly personal living allowance (stipend) to cover other living expenses.

Hlongwane commented that he was excited, but nervous  at the same time. When he had arrived at his destination.

“It was my first time travelling outside South Africa. Everything was new to me, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was also easy to ask for help because Ireland is one of the safest countries in Europe,” he remarked.

For Hlongwane, the experience had been good. He explained that he had developed various academic and technical skills as well. “The university is fully equipped with state of the art facilities which are accessible anytime. The lecturing staff is very supportive and friendly. We usually hang out with our lecturers during lunch times which is a cultural shock for me,” he chuckled.

In terms of the course, he indicated that is very demanding and it requires a lot of dedication.

“The interesting thing about the course is that it focuses more on how the PR and Communication industry professionals should communicate in this digital era, which include communicating with the public and producing content using AI tools,” he expressed. Hlongwane professed that the hospitality of the people are amazing. “Generally, Irish people are very friendly and welcoming. Although I am miles away from my home county, I always feel at home. I am studying with people from all walks of life, and they value and embrace diversity. I never felt like an outsider, never experienced racism as well. People are generally helpful here. So, if you can’t understand anything or feeling confused just share your context and ask for clarification. Ask about the norm here and it can help to resolve any confusion. I found this practice very useful and again MTU has a high tolerance for diversity,” he added.

The only struggle he has experienced to date is adjusting to the Irish weather.

“It is always raining, with no sunshine. During winter it was very cold, and raining almost every day! Irish weather is unpredictable. This means that you can experience snow, rain, sunshine, and strong wind in one day.

I am glad we are approaching summer season and I am looking forward to it,” he said.

Hlongwane further shared that the course is in par with DUT. “This course is like a top up to what I have already done. It was easy for me to adjust to the Irish learning and teaching standard. The standard is very high and the grading system is different,” he added.

Culture wise, Hlongwana confessed that he does not like Irish food as they eat a lot of genetically modified food.

“The restaurants serve meals that are not spicy. Even the Irish Nando’s is a very dry chicken,” he expressed.

 He further thanked the DUT Public Relations lecturers for their unwavering support.

Pictured: Alumnus, Thembelihle Isaac Hlongwane.

Waheeda Peters

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