Tida’s RLF in Nigeria: Immersing Myself in The Culture

In isiNdebele we say ukuhamba kuzala iNkosi which, loosely translated, means travelling bears a king. Metaphorically speaking, this means that travelling is an enriching experience. I’m going to share a bit of my experience in Nigeria with you all. Doing an RLF, for me, meant helping out at an organization in a developing country through the skills I’d gained at the ESMT, but also being moulded personally by the experience. I immersed myself in a culture different to my own, and came out a better person on the other side.

Lost In Translation

Ogas and madames – how far nah?

E be October 2016 when ah dey waka for Naija for dis my RLF. Nah be only 2 months since ah dey arrive o, but see dis my fine Pidgin! Already ah dey get Igbo name: Chidinma; ah dey tie gele, wear asoebi and dance shoki for owambe parri. Also, ah dey chop jollof, egusi and suya well-well…chei, dis food be sweet o!

It was 2007 when I was first introduced to Pidgin English in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savanna. I was absolutely fascinated by the characters as they used ‘proper’ grammer one second and switched to (what seemed like) a comical “Ah dey sleep” sentence structure the next. Later I found out that that is what is known as Pidgin English – which turned out to be a vital survival language for my stay in Nigeria. Versions of Pidgin English are spoken in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Haiti and Cameroon, among other countries. Upon arrival in Abuja, this my Southern African tongue had to adapt very quickly and learn to say to the taxi driver “Oga, ah dey go Maitama – how moch nah?” instead of “I’m going to Maitama – how much will that cost me?” if I did not want to pay oil-industry-expat prices. #AdaptOrBeBroke

I once had a discussion with a British classmate as to whether there is only one type of English: British English. I argued that that cannot be the case because even within The Kingdom, there are several dialects of the language. Same thing applies in British colonies. People have adopted a foreign language and made it their own. For one of my first meetings in Nigeria, my meeting partner and I agreed that our meeting would be ‘by 10am’. I needed a 30-minute slot, so I figured I’d call him at 9.30am so that we’d be done ‘by 10am’. “But we said our meeting is by 10am”, Wole said, perplexed as to why I was calling too early.

“Yeah. If we need to have it by 10am, then we need to get a headstart, no?” It took a minute until I realised that we were both lost in translation. In Nigeria, ‘by 10am’ means ‘at 10am’. Another example is when Aunt Lilian and I were having jollof rice which she had made, and she said, “This jollof rice is not very sweet o.” Confused, I replied, “But it’s ok. It’s supposed to be salty and spicy.” It turns out that when the word “sweet” is used to describe food, it does not necessarily only mean that the food has sugar. It simply means that it tastes good. For me, this is the beauty of travelling and experiencing different cultures. You learn to observe how people do things differently, maybe adopt what you like, and leave what you don’t with as little judgement as possible.

Food, Glorious Food!

Hi. My name is Tida, and I’m an absolute foodie. Thank goodness Nigeria did not disappoint. The country is home to Africa’s largest population currently pegged at between 150 million or 180 million. It comprises 36 states (plus the Federal Capital Territory) and has 500 ethnic groups. So you can be sure that the place will be a melting pot of cuisines to choose from. Just like its people, Nigerian food is of a fiery temperament. Zimbabwean food, on the other hand, is very mild, so for the first month my mouth was on fire, I broke into a spice-induced sweat and my eyes watered from the pepe (pepper) after every meal.

My favorite foods were Egusi soup (which I love-love-loooved!), bitter leaf stew, okpa and vegetable soup (don’t be fooled – vegetable soup has meat). Jollof rice (which is rice cooked in a beef stew) is always a winner, dodo (fried plantain), pounded yam (which is a productivity killer) moi-moi (steamed bean paste with fish), puff-puff (fried dumplings which we call vetkoeks in Zim and South Africa) and chin-chin (fried dough snack) are also at the top of my list.

     

From l-r: Okpa (steamed bean paste with green veges), dodo (fried plantain), moi-moi (steamed bean paste), fura yoghurt, kunu-aya

Fashion

Nigerians are, in my opinion so far, the most fashion-forward people on the continent (I am told the Senegalese give them a good run for their money, though). The first time I went to Wuse market to buy material, I was so overwhelmed that I just stood there and stared for a good 10 minutes. While Southern Africans are all about their beads, West Africans are all about prints. Called Ankara, traditional prints have made it from the boring, traditional drawer to being a mainstream fashion trend. Nowadays, you get Ankara-themed swimwear, cellphone cases and backpacks.

 

I loved getting ready for Anna’s Wedding (my colleague), to which Anna had invited and was ready to host 1000 people! A Nigerian wedding is a big and grand affair, people. The bride chooses her materials and colour scheme for her wedding, which is called asoebi, and sells these to her guests who get the material sewn in desired outfits. Typically, the groom’s side and the bride’s side wear different colours and so you can tell whose side a guest belongs to by the colour they’re wearing. The gele is a big (and tight!) head dress which is worn by Nigerian women with their traditional outfits. I tried it all on Anna’s big day, and it was so much fun!

They say you haven’t partied in Africa until you’ve partied in Lagos

I’m one of those people who goes out with friends (if they can get me out of my place in the first place), and after an hour is already asking, “When are we going home?” But never in Lagos!

Nigerian movies and music are arguably the country’s biggest cultural export (there isn’t much going on in terms of tourism). Artists like Tekno, Wizkid, and Tiwa Savage will have you on your feet the whole night, and you’ll be nursing aching muscles the whole day afterwards. I’m always fortunate to have great hosts in Lagos who are always happy to show me around, so I never feel the night zoom past. Nigerians are proud of their music, and it’s not a surprise if you leave a club after many hours without hearing a single non-Nigerian track.

Lil Kesh performing at the launch of a new whisky brand in Lagos

It’s a wrap!

I loved my time in Nigeria, with all its highs and lows, and I’m glad I chose AfriLabs as my host organization. I hate goodbyes (I’d rather just disappear into the darkness), but my colleagues were very sweet and insisted on organizing a whole farewell feast for me. This was so thoughtfully organized and touched me very deeply, which led (of course) to a tear gland leakage on my end.

 

I learnt a lot and hopefully imparted valuable and impactful insights. I met incredible people doing great things for the development of the tech spaces in their respective countries, formed friendships and walked away an enriched human being. I’ll forever be grateful to the ESMT for making this opportunity a possibility, and to the AfriLabs team for being such great hosts.

If you’re interested in doing an RLF and would like some pointers, do feel free to reach out to me.

Tida

 

Internship Bound

So far ESMT has been nothing short of a thrill ride!

It seems like ages ago but I remember when the program started, I was all wide eyed and bushy tailed. Right now, it seems my tail has lost it fluff and my eyes now have depth due to all the short nights and long, long days. I have found myself in the ‘valley of despair’ few times during the first two modules of the program. However, the clouds parted after a while and the sun shone again.

Don’t get me wrong I’m having the time of my life here in Berlin, I am enjoying the classes and learning, not only from the traditional sources but very unconventional sources as well. I believe the MIM program has been designed in such a way to constantly keep us on our toes and to think actively. (it may sound fun but believe me it can become exhausting)

It has been a vicious LISTEN, THINK, IMPLEMENT cycle. Just as you start balancing one course the second, third and perhaps fourth is thrown into the mix. While juggling these courses at a circus-level efficiency we work in teams on cases and projects. Learning doesn’t stop after the final exam. The courses have been designed in such a way that we find ourselves applying the concepts learnt from Module 1 in Module 2.

Now we are gradually entering a new phase of the program; The Internship Module.
Searching for an internship position is not the smoothest of rides but thankfully I have mine sorted out. I really can’t explain how excited I am to start my Internship in SAP by April, with a computer science background this is the best way to leverage my previous strengths with the new skills learnt from ESMT Berlin.

I am also excited about applying the IMPLEMENT part of ‘the cycle’ during the internship and see how relevant the classroom topics are in the real world. Hopefully I will have tangible stories and experiences to share about how I applied the individual course I have learnt so far in the MIM program. Drücke mir die Daumen!

MIM @ ESMT – Module 2

An update

Amidst all the exams and assignments, I am writing this post because now with a more regular life here in Berlin my judgement would not be biased (and you will learn the significance of this word when you do as it might have been in my first post and also might help maintaining the continuity my first post.

This time of the year most of my class is busy applying for various internships and its tough to find one for a non-German speaker (so you might want to start early!). The career services at ESMT however have been quite useful in arranging some events which are helpful.

My overall experience in the first module was quite great in terms of the quality of professors and also in terms of the broad range of content that was covered during the class. Its quite surprising that in such a short time, we are equipped with a lot of techniques to analyse and make decisions based on data. I have learned various new modelling techniques and am quite impressed by the course content of some of the courses.

5 weeks into the second module, I cannot deny that its taking some time to get used to the work load again after quite a long winter break. Along with the regular work, the ghost of internship still looms.

Berlin

The city is quite cold but yet beautiful in the winters (although it is too cold to observe the beauty really). Most of the class went home during the break, and a few of us stayed back in Berlin, however one added bonus of being here is that there are a lot of nice places around Berlin to visit and so you can actually not regret having not gone home during the winter break. The christmas markets keeps you occupied and also so full all the time with great gluhwein and wurst of course.

Simulating reality

One of the most interesting part of the studies here at ESMT in contrast to my undergraduate is the kind of application focused learning, we are continuously exposed to some best simulation practices to learn key concepts. Sometimes it does happen that simulations do not leave you satisfied and seem exaggerated but most of the times they are really good tools to help you learn concepts as well as team building and working.

Learning it the German way

Since my time here I have bought countless number of planners and now I find myself planning weeks in advance, I out rightly blame/give credit to the German way of planning. One of the most correct stereotypes associated with Germans is their planning and punctuality, and one of things you quickly see yourself doing is planning, maintaining schedules on your calendar and sending RSVPs.

Long story short

The course has been very satisfying for me personally, and I am really glad that I get to work as an intern (hopefully) after the bombardment of so much information in the 2 modules, I really would like to apply these newly learned techniques and kind of see where and how it all applies in the “real” world.

Prost!

First month of Master’s in Management

Quote

Starting out in Berlin

Hello! I am now an ESMT student and since the start of the program 3 weeks ago, I have been wanting to put everything together including what is going on with the program, the classmates and of course, Berlin! So, I figured this would be the perfect platform to do so, since people might get something
out of this.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-4-20-04-pmThe first few weeks have been really promising, and the first week is the best welcome any university can have for its students, since we all came from different cultures and background, it was really good to have the first week to get to know each other. A usual conversation used to end up about getting to know something or the other about a country you didn’t really know well, also ESMT as well as the city of Berlin helps you with settling in as well.

Teaching Methodology:

Since I come from India, the universities I am accustomed to are a bit different in the sense of teacher student relationship, method of teaching, etc. I was expecting it to be different here, but this fabulous is not what I had expected. We got to meet the various faculties in the first week and a lot of faculties took interest in us personally, and greeted us every day and whenever there was a new class, one of the more familiar faces introduced them to us and so ESMT took a lot of care in making us feel at home (however I think this could be a “trap”). Decision theory is the first subject  we went through and looking back, I am quite amazed how much I have learnt in the last 3 weeks only! It gives me a lot of hope of the coming two years here.

Fellow Students and Classmates:

The students you meet on campus are really friendly and they always help you out with your queries regarding professors, exams, the internships, etc. Its really great to interact with them and have them give you the first take on whats it going to be like for the coming years. With the kind of work they did during their internships and the satisfaction level of each of them is pretty amazing too, it almost feels like career services helped them find the tailored internships somehow.

My classmates have been really really awesome too, they come from such a varied background and the diversity is another feat in itself. We have since the beginning of the program shared some group works, apartment issues, registration in the city, going through the german bureaucratic system together and of course partying together! All of this has had an impact on the class unity and I think we have a great and a verimg_20161010_231245  y interesting blend of people in the batch.

And now, Berlin:

I found myself, again and again, doing Berlin things. There’s really no way around it in Berlin

fotor_147603657571281Well Berlin is one of the most attractive attribute that ESMT students go for (if not the most attractive) and is rightly so. Berlin is a very vibrant city and its an amazing place to be. The people are more or less quite friendly (except for the lady at city registration) and you see a culture which in my opinion is hardly matched by any (and I have been to most of Europe). Sometimes, the nightlife of Berlin what it is glorified for (and rightly so), but the best thing in my opinion about this city is, even for people who don’t party much like me, there are ample of choices and things to do in the city (like Banksy art collection or the festival of lights, a lot  of places with historic significance etc.). Except for the fun part of Berlin another great feature of this city is its start up atmosphere, a lot of young berliners you speak to are very inclined to do something on their own and are generally very motivated in this aspect. There are a lot of start up meet ups which definitely provide anyone with an inclination to get the most out of this city’s ever growing start up space. Although I am yet to visit ESMT’s GTEC, I have heard a lot of amazing stuff about the centre and am very keen to meet them soon!

My main aim of writing this article is to give you a brief idea about the atmosphere and the positive environment around me, which is very highly  facilitated by ESMT’s super awesome faculties, admission team, the career services team, etc who always make you feel at ease and the surrounding ecosystem of your classmates and other study groups which provide you with a unique diverse and growth oriented atmosphere. This is what I think will steer ESMT to greater heights in the coming years!!