It’s not easy leaving everything you know behind – including your wife and newborn son. But that’s what Ishaku Lemu Haruna of Nigeria had to do in order to attend a special dual master’s program in Australia through Northeastern University and Swinburne University of Technology.
Offered an Australian scholarship in 2013, Haruna said the benefit to his education and to his home country was an opportunity he could not turn down, even given his own personal circumstances.
“My wife was 8 months pregnant went I left, but it was a scholarship, so I couldn’t really delay it,” he said in an interview.
Despite what he had to leave behind, the Global Leadership dual master’s program, where he will earn a Master’s in Biotechnology and Global Leadership, will help him make a real impact back home, he said.
“A lot of people out there [in Africa] are in hunger or starvation…” he said, noting biotechnology will help immensely with these issues. “The fact that the global leadership program is incorporated into it is an important thing, because it gives you an added advantage to develop leadership skills, which will help you in implementing these policies.”
Although he’s not yet done with his studies, Haruna is already happy with his decision. He was recently named International Student of the Year in the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) 2014 Excellence Awards. The award is the top award given to international students studying in Australia.
This award means a lot to me as an individual and I believe it means even more to my home country,” Haruna said. “I hope my country will look at this and realize the enormous potential we posses if only we can give education a chance.”
“To move from one side of the world to the other, to study a master’s program in which he is negotiating two different academic traditions at the same time, to create a life in Melbourne, and to win a major national award is exceptional,” said Jeffrey Smart, Swinburne’s vice president of international and future students.
At Swinburne, Haruna received training in English and preparation for his first experience with international education in Australia.
“In the beginning, there were a lot of adjustment issues, trying to adjust to the culture, he said.” It was a bit difficult, but my teachers helped me a lot in trying to encourage me to ask about things I didn’t understand.”
One of his professors, Rick Arrowood, a Northeastern University faculty member and visiting professor at Swinburne, said he’s inspired every day by meeting students like Haruna.
“Ishaku is the type of person who encourages the hearts, warms the smiles, and genuinely cares about each and every person he meets,” Arrowood said. “He’s filled with optimism, enthusiasm, and a keen sense of helping others in need. I see what others see – an individual who will forge change when the change benefits the unprotected, the underprivileged, and the under-represented.”
Although he’s many miles from his hometown in Gombe, Nigeria, Haruna said his university experience makes him feel at home.
“If I say everybody is welcome, it’s an understatement,” he said. “Everyone has a voice. I feel like I belong.”
The Northeastern University dual degree Global Leadership Program is designed to prepare students to be global leaders. Local and international students in Australia can earn a Master of Science in Leadership from Northeastern University and the choice of a Master of Commerce (International business), Master of Commerce (Marketing), Master of Professional Accounting or Master of Science (Biotechnology) from Swinburne University of Technology.