MCI offers different scholarships in collaboration with notable partners, where scholarship recipients are selected based on their commitment to a certain cause. Ban Ki-Moon scholarship recipients commit to a focus on the SDGs in their master thesis.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where do you come from? What have you done in so far?
My name is Benedicta Apuamah, I am originally Nigerian, I am married with a son. I possess a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Delta State University in Nigeria. I found out about community development and the UN SDGs in my final year as an Undergraduate student and begun organizing health projects in grassroots communities; these earned me the Ban Ki-Moon/ MCI Scholarship. My engagements with the UN SDGs founding an organization “Girls for Development Goals Foundation”, volunteering, working either as a staff or ADHOC staff with local and international organizations like the ONE Campaign, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) etc.
How did you come across the opportunity to study at MCI and apply for the Scholarship?
I consider myself an ambitious person. After I found out about the UN SDGs and the possible career opportunities they present, I decided that getting a Master’s degree coupled with my background in health and several volunteer and work opportunities will be my key to working successfully in the development space. So I kept checking on a number of platforms where scholarship opportunities are shared. When I found the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship, I felt it was a total package to study and still be able to build a relationship with an organization focused on actualization the SDGs. Another huge motivation to apply was the opportunity to share in the legacy of a former UN Secretary General H.E Ban Ki-Moon.
What was it like for you to come to Innsbruck and start your studies here at MCI? What do you enjoy about studying at MCI, and about living in Innsbruck? What are the challenges?
Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited and coming to study here in one of the best Universities in Europe and the world is me living my dreams. Although, I had to do my first semester online because the Austrian embassy process was quite time consuming and hectic. I am enjoying my studies so much at the MCI. I like the beautiful scenery, the international community, the diversity of lecturers, the exposure to international opportunities in form of conferences etc. I absolutely love the experience. Although, it was very tough to come to Innsbruck especially since I had to move with my husband and 4months old son then. The travel process was very expensive and time consuming, I expected way more support from the Ban Ki-Moon Center and MCI especially since I was a Ban Ki-Moon/MCI scholar. It was tough finding an apartment and finding our way generally the first couple of weeks. The Nigerian church community and our Landlady were very supportive through those times. Amidst the many challenges, studying here at the MCI makes it all worth the stress.
One of the conditions of the Ban Ki-Moon Scholarship is that your master thesis is related to the SDGs.
What is your topic, and how will your work contribute to one or more of the SDGs?Oh yes, I have always been interested in women’s health. One of my courses at the MCI “Determinants of Health” has given me a whole new perspective about the fact that some many factors can impact either negatively or positively on one’s health. In the light of the Ukraine war, I am considering evaluating women’s health in Refugee camps especially since women and children are most vulnerable in conflict situations. I am interested in looking into how much awareness and access refugee women have to Sexual Reproductive Health Services. And these fall basically into SDGs 3 (Health), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
If you could choose on Sustainable Development Goal, which one is most important to you? Why?
I would naturally choose 3, maybe because of my background in Health. This is because I like how so many factors can contribute towards ensuring good health and wellbeing while still achieving other SDGs, I really appreciate the interconnectedness.
What are you doing to help achieve this goal? What everyday things could others do to help achieve this goal?
There is an adage I know that says “little drops of water makes the mighty ocean” and for me right now, my little drop is by gaining more knowledge, especially during my Master’s program now. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to work on an SDG Micro-project as a Ban Ki-Moon Scholar. On the other hand, asides my master’s thesis, my organization (Girls for Development Goals Foundation) is currently working on a partnership that will be implemented in Nigeria in the coming months. This project also contributes to SDGs 3, 4 and 5.
As part of your scholarship, you are also working on a Micro-Project with the support of the Ban Ki-Moon Center. Can you tell us more about this?
In preparation for my Master’s thesis, I am considering the possibility of linking my SDG micro-project to my thesis. Hence, for my SDG Micro-project, I am thinking of working closely with refugee women especially those of the African descent and Ukrainians, to first evaluate their access and awareness about Sexual Reproductive Health Services and to help them increase their access to these health services considering barriers like language and cultural differences etc.
What are your future plans?
I would love to work for international organization(s) that are working towards achieving the 2030 agenda and subsequent global development goals. It does give a sense of responsibility to mankind and the global good. So, I will continue to build my capacity while taking on opportunities to work hands on like I am doing now, interning with the Strategic Programme Development team at SOS Kinderdorf International Office in Innsbruck. I still nurse the ambition somewhere of working the UN and her agencies. I will also love to maximize the work my organization does in Nigeria through strategic partnerships within and beyond Europe and possibly scale our impact to other African countries.
How will your studies and the scholarship help you achieve your goals?
I dare say that my studies and the Ban Ki-Moon Scholarship is already leading me towards achieving my goals. From studying at a very good University to the various exposure to build more capacity, network and much more confidence. For example, my school just sent my classmates and I to the Geneva Health Forum where international health stakeholders were gathered to discuss the future of health. I consider that very good exposure. For this, I am very grateful to H.E Ban Ki-Moon and his team for the opportunity to study at the MCI in the first place. I sincerely look forward to meeting him in person.
My name is Kayla and I’m from Manila, Philippines. I previously studied at the Ateneo de Manila University, graduating from there in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Law and a double-minor in International Business and German Studies. I also completed an exchange semester at the University of Regensburg in Germany where I mainly studied Strategic and International Management.
After graduation, I spent three years working in the Marketing and E-Commerce industries before deciding to pursue my Master’s degree in International Business and Law at the Management Center Innsbruck.
I did a lot of volunteer work back in my home country, which is why I’m interested in figuring out how to uplift marginalized communities using the knowledge I have gained in my studies and work experiences. More specifically, I aim to develop digital-based solutions for the problems that less-fortunate Filipinos face.
A friend of mine migrated to Austria after our high school graduation and in 2017, we met up in Vienna. I’ve stayed in touch with her and her family since then. Upon learning that I was interested in pursuing my Master’s degree in Europe, her mother recommended the MCI to me as she herself had recently graduated from there. Based on my research, the International Business and Law study program was aligned with both my interests and career goals, so I decided to apply for it. Thankfully, I was accepted.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on our family business, so much so that in 2021, my parents informed me that they would be unable to financially support me or my study plans. I then worked two different jobs to afford my moving expenses and tuition fee; however, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do this for my second year in Austria due to the rigorous demands of my degree program. One of my classmates learned about my financial problems and encouraged me to apply for the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship. I was initially hesitant because I knew that I would be up against serious competition but fortunately, the committee awarded me this incredible opportunity.
Apart from financial reasons, I was also drawn to the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship because of its emphasis on the Sustainable Development Goals. Coming from a developing country, these initiatives have a huge impact on me and my fellow Filipinos, so I want to do everything I can to turn them into reality.
Adjusting to a new city was definitely challenging, especially since I come from a tropical country. But thanks to my classmates and the friends I made in my student dormitory, Innsbruck now feels like home. The MCI emphasizes a well-rounded education, which means that theory and practice go hand-in-hand. This is definitely one of the things that I enjoy the most about studying here – classroom learnings are supplemented with real-life case studies and guest lecturers who give valuable insight into the topics we discuss. Our professors are also engaging and have excellent qualifications, so I learn a lot from them.
There are a lot of things that I enjoy about Innsbruck – its proximity to nature being one of them. However, I also love how tight-knit the community is. Everyone goes out of their way to help you, even if you aren’t a local and don’t speak “Innsbrucker.” For example, there were a few problems with my paperwork last year, which resulted in me still without an Austrian residence permit three days away from my flight. When I informed the Magistrat in Innsbruck, they processed my documents immediately and a few hours later, I had my residence permit. I have had many other experiences of locals going out of their way to help me; however, this incident with the Magistrat was the one that endeared me the most to Innsbruck. Of course, life in Innsbruck does have its challenges. The language barrier, for instance, is very hard to navigate, although I like to think that I’m now more familiar with the dialect than when I first arrived!
One of the conditions of the Ban Ki-Moon Scholarship is that your master thesis is related to the SDGs. What is your topic, and how will your work contribute to one or more of the SDGs?
The fifth SDG is “Gender Inequality,” which is what I hope to tackle with my thesis – a deep-dive into thechallenges and double standards that female start-up founders face when trying to secure investment for their business ideas. Despite having the same qualifications, skills, and career goals as their male counterparts, women in the workplace often face a much tougher environment.
Through my master’s thesis, I aim to raise awareness for gender inequality in the start-up world in Tyrol, Austria, which, I believe, could lead to widespread changes. Hopefully, this will then pave the way for many more women to take up entrepreneurship.
All SDGs are equally important; however, if I were to choose just one to personally work towards, then it would be the first – “No Poverty.” Growing up in a developing country, I have witnessed abject poverty first-hand. In the Philippines, 26.1 million Filipinos are currently unable to meet their basic needs and this number continues to increase, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. This means that many of my countrymen are forced to do unthinkable things to survive, like re-cooking food salvaged from dumpsters and resorting to crime to make ends meet.
It is a dream of mine to eradicate poverty in the Philippines. I believe that only then would my country be able to reach its full potential.
During my undergraduate studies, I participated in a program that took us to marginalized communities, where we would help residents set-up and optimize their small businesses. For me, making sure that people have sustainable sources of income is one of the best ways to fight against poverty.
Eradicating poverty may seem like an insurmountable challenge but there are small steps we can do everyday to help achieve this goal. For instance, volunteering at or donating to food banks is easy and effective. Poverty is linked to food insecurity, which is why we should work to ensure that the poor can feed themselves.
Another thing that we can do is use social media to raise awareness for global poverty rates and the campaigns being done to reduce them. If more people know about this issue, then the likelier will it be addressed.
My Micro-Project is connected to my Master’s thesis. It will involve a podcast called “FoundHer,” where I have conversations with female start-up founders, entrepreneurs, and business leaders about the challenges they faced – or are still facing – as women in the workplace. Hopefully, this will not only raise awareness for gender inequality but will also inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter the hardships they face.
Right now, I’m concentrating on finishing my degree program with the best grades possible. Afterward, I aim to immerse myself in Austria’s unique start-up scene as I believe that I will learn a lot from it. Hopefully, I can take these insights back to the Philippines, where I can use them to establish organizations or projects that will improve the lives of less-fortunate Filipinos.
As an international student financially supporting myself while living in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, funding my studies was honestly my biggest problem. Thanks to the Ban Ki-moon Scholarship, this burden has finally been lifted from my shoulders, allowing me to focus full-time on my degree program.