Updated: Jun 8, 2022
How a Danish scholarship and master’s degree offered a life-changing opportunity
Photographs: Unsplash / JosephYamoah
Text: Skyler Bentley Hall
Originally from Ghana, Joseph Yamoah moved to Denmark seven years ago to study an MSc in Global Development Studies at the University of Copenhagen. He was fortunate enough to be granted a Danish Government Scholarship, which transformed his life. Joseph exudes positive energy that is refreshing to be around, and in a recent interview, Joseph shares his journey from an international Master’s student to an influential father, husband, and professional in Denmark.
From the warmth of Ghana to chilly Denmark
Compared to other Development Studies programmes, the one that KU offered stood out. It was a research-based interdisciplinary programme – a mix of Economics, Anthropology, Political Science, and geography. In my Bachelor’s in Political Science, I used a mixed-method approach to writing my thesis, and I enjoyed doing that, so it made the program a ‘no brainer’ for me. The experience was eye-opening – coming from Ghana to one of the coldest places without having any structured network. In the beginning, it was tough to transition into a new country, but the leap in the quality and standard of education was quite steep. I struggled a lot with things that others would have considered ‘basic’, but once I started finding my feet, rhythm, and vibe, it became an enjoyable and life-transforming experience. The educational standard here is very high, and students are responsible for driving their academic life, fortunately with guidance from tutors and advisors. Danes are very helpful, and some of my classmates were very supportive during the transition phase.
Interdisciplinary studies and transferable skills
My degree has taught me to think critically and understand arguments from different perspectives because of the interdisciplinary approach. Here I appreciate and can draw analysis from both quantitative and qualitative data – which is very useful in understanding feedback to improve employee experience while engaging with different stakeholders. Furthermore, the focus on group work has been essential in working with different teams, stakeholders, and customers.
In 2015, two main scholarships were available to international students, the DANIDA Fellowship Scholarship under the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) initiative and the Danish Government Scholarship. To this day, I do not know how I got the scholarships, but I believe it was by the Grace of God since I could not afford to study in Denmark. I am grateful to the University for this opportunity – it brought me to Denmark. As a result, I met my Danish wife here, we have two kids together, and I am now employed full-time. Truly life-changing!
Fatherhood highs and lows
I will summarise this with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – “Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” This has encapsulated how I live life. One highlight that stands out for me as a father is when both my kids were born in the hospital room, I promised to do my very best for them, loving them to the best of my ability. As a result, they change the way you view the world and make the anonymous poem ‘A Little Fellow Follows Me’ more real, especially these first few lines:
A careful man I want to be —
a little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
for fear he’ll go the self-same way…
In terms of challenges, I believe there could be more support available for men transitioning into fatherhood - I had no assistance whilst my wife received a lot of support and resources to help her transition into motherhood. Fortunately, Danish society supports fathers by offering flexible paternity leave. I am constantly learning and taking these different challenges as they come into my stride.
Don’t be afraid to fail or get something wrong. I have learned a lot from mistakes and failures – of course, I always strive for perfection, but I know it is part of the process when I fail. It is ok not to have all the answers, and as Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”