HOW ONE STUDENT MADE HER WAY IN SPITE OF COVID-19
BY ERIN SILVER
There is a lot of expense attached to a university degree – a scholarship can make all the difference.
Having one is especially helpful now that Covid-19 has limited job opportunities in industries that typically hire students – restaurants, bars and hotels.
For many, who still have the burden of paying for tuition, books, room and board and other expenses, it has been a challenge to return to school.
Naphisa Smith, 20, has no idea how she would have been able to earn enough to pay for her first year of studies at Nova Southeastern University without the financial help she received from the Aspen BFIS Scholarship, the BELCO scholarship, Workforce Development and the Ministry of Education.
“It is very important to me to have a scholarship because I come from a family of seven and my dad is self-employed,” said Ms Smith who is studying environmental science with a minor in geographic information science. “Especially during the last year, Covid made everything a lot harder and nobody could work.”
Her hope is that her luck continues and she is able to graduate from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida school in 2023.
“I couldn’t send myself here and my parents would have struggled,” she said. “If I didn’t have scholarships, I couldn’t have come.
“Although I was not able to tutor violin students like I usually would because of restrictions, I was able to work for the Bermuda Government summer programme. I was fortunate enough to work with Dr Robbie Smith at the Bermuda Aquarium doing research on fish populations around the island. I am very thankful that the Bermuda Government offered the programme to allow me to contribute to my educational costs.”
She chose Nova Southeastern University for many reasons: “NSU has a very good science programme. I felt I would enjoy the programme and that it would be good for me. I could have picked a less expensive school and made it a lot easier, but I knew that if I worked hard and had good grades that I could get scholarships. It was very important to me and I’m so grateful to the scholarship committees who offered me funding because this wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Although Ms Smith completed her first semester online from Bermuda, she is now on the Florida campus and loving the experience.
“It’s a better environment for me,” she said. “When I was at home doing remote learning, it was difficult to understand and there was no connection. I had to rely on students’ video footage so I was at a disadvantage.
“When I’m in the classroom, it feels like the place where I come to learn. I can see my professor, he can see us writing notes or if we don’t understand something by the look on our faces. Then he can pause his presentation and answer questions. Over Zoom, he can’t tell what people are doing and might go through slides too quickly.”
Apart from that it is simply nice to be in a classroom with other people, she said.
An added bonus of being on campus is that it gives her the chance to apply for jobs at the university. Ms Smith hopes to work as a lab assistant, at the library or perhaps as a resident assistant. When she graduates, there are a plethora of opportunities that could present themselves. She might want to work as a land planner or in insurance as a modeller or risk analyst.
In the meantime, she is trying her best to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way thanks to the scholarships that brought her to university in Florida in the first place. She has lots of advice for graduating students the most important being that in order to get a scholarship you must first apply.
“You never know what could happen or what that scholarship committee is looking for. You could be the right candidate,” Ms Smith said.
She suggests people apply for as many scholarships as they can; she sent in 18 and ended up receiving four awards.
“Scholarships aren’t only about having the best grades, they’re also about the type of person you are,” she said. “They want to know that you’re eager to learn and that your scholarship won’t be squandered. They want someone who will appreciate it.”
Also important, Ms Smith said, is that students make sure their online or social media presence looks professional. “Don’t have anything up that you wouldn’t want a scholarship committee to see. They could look you up and will want to make sure you will represent the company well. Don’t give them a reason to have a negative opinion of you.”
Her final piece of advice is that students do not let Covid-19 “stop your life from happening”.
“A lot of people have lost hope because they can’t work,” she said. “Even if you can’t afford to send yourself to school on your own, apply for as many scholarships as you can. And even though you may not be able to go overseas right away, take advantage of the programmes at Bermuda College to lessen educational costs. Many of their courses are transferable to various universities overseas; you have your whole life ahead of you.”