Using science as an advocacy tool for the unseen and unheard majority to help make the world a better place!
Priscilla is from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya also called the city under the sun. She wanted to see and learn more about the world, meet people with different backgrounds and even step out of her comfort zone to go for a challenge. She ended up in the Netherlands for a master’s programme Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation. Through her specialization Urban Planning & Management, she hopes to co-create solutions with and advocate for better living conditions for those living in deprivation.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO DO A MASTER'S ABROAD?
Priscilla: “I did my undergraduate degree in a city 8hrs drive away from home and it opened me up to viewing life through a different lens. Different cultures, food, everything. So I got wanderlust and wanted to see and learn more about the world, about people and different cultures. Interacting or being outside your comfort zone makes you more independent, open to different perspectives and experiences. Your mind becomes more expansive.”
Why did you choose the Master's Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation at UT?
“I choose the Master's Geo-information Science and Earth Observation at the University of Twente (UT) because it’s one of the best courses globally. I spoke to alumni and they recommended it. Besides, they stood out from their peers and colleagues in terms of how they did their work. So I thought why not? Also, we all exist in time and space. But it’s only until recently that people gained interest in deeply analysing the “space” and understanding and embracing this component of our lives. By space – I don’t mean other planets, though that’s also interesting. I mean our surroundings and living environs. This has been fueled by an increase in Earth observation data (from satellites in space). Kinda punny.” Priscilla explains.
Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (GEO) is all...
...about collecting, processing, analysing, visualizing and organising data representing the location, size and shape of objects on our planet. This data is generally referred to as spatial information. It is the key to solving complex issues that may involve agricultural practices, land rights mapping, water safety & security, urban search-and-rescue, geothermal energy sources, weather-related perils, agro-good trade, sustainable social housing and inclusive urban communities. What research area do you like working on most?
Priscilla: “I believe that all these areas are important in our lives. However, what draws my interest is urban planning
Globally, most humans are concentrated in cities/towns/urban areas. While cities have been a major driver for adverse environmental effects, they also present an important avenue where most change geared towards sustainability and inclusivity is possible.”
What kind of courses do you get and which is your favourite and do you have a favourite teacher?
“We have a whole buffet, so to speak of courses. First, we have the core module. Which is tough but lays a strong foundation for the specialization courses. I liked it because it’s the first course/module we take and you get to interact with all the students and forge friendships before branching into our respective specializations. I choose specialization Urban Planning & Management.
Then we have the specialization courses where we learn the “tools” to address issues within our domains. But in terms of favourites, I really can’t specify any because I had very different experiences in each.
Haha, favourite teacher. That’s a tough one. But I’d go for Johannes Flacke because I perceive him to be artistic. Like a painter who bumped into science and embraced it. I hope he doesn’t read this,” Priscilla laughs.
What can a GEO expert in your field of research do for our planet? Who will benefit most? What do you think your contribution could be?
Priscilla: “As GEO experts we are key in guiding sustainable development. The world as a whole will benefit since the world is an interconnected system.
I think my contribution will be in advocating for better living conditions of the millions living in deprivation – slum /informal/unplanned settlements as well as internally displaced persons, refugees and refugee returnees.”
Have you thought about what you will do after graduation?
“I will hopefully (no Corona) take a break. Go on vacation to an island with a beautiful coast. Hopefully white sandy beaches. Afterwards, I am open to working or do a PhD. Let’s see what the world has to offer me.” Priscilla smiles.
GEO is an international master with many students from all over the world. What is it like to study this programme together with so many students with so many different cultural backgrounds?
Priscilla: “It has been eye-opening, amazing, fun, and humbling. We all have different perspectives on things in life, even simple things like greetings. Which is shaped by the different societies we come from. And so it’s been a humbling experience to learn that just because someone does something different from how you are used to, they aren’t wrong. It could be just different. So learning and embracing this enriches one’s view of life. All these different kinds of perspectives give you a better pool of resources to also better your own life because someone might have a better way of doing things than what you are used to.
Coming to think of it, it’s a life-changing experience. At least mentally. And one of the greatest things I’ve discovered for myself is that we all have more similarities than differences. “
How did your introduction to the NL and UT go?
“Through the kick-in (= introduction period at UT) I made some friends with similar interests who’ve been great and we still meet and hang out. I, however, feel that being outside campus (and also older than most UT students) has been limiting. Hopefully, once ITC is in the campus this will change.
I felt right at home, thanks to the ITC family who organized fun and interactive activities for us. Including showing us the Dutch side of life. Also the East African community in Enschede showed us around and helped us find all the things we needed -especially food - and made us feel at home away from home,” Priscilla explains.
What do you do when you are not studying?
Priscilla: “I joined the ITC Run for Fun team which runs together every Wednesday afternoon/evening. However, with corona, things have been tricky. I also “attempt” to write musings and poetry.”
What are your experiences with Dutch education, food, or traditions?
Priscilla: “For me, the biggest culture shock was and still is shops closing at 6 pm and on Sunday morning how everything is closed. As for food, I have found most ingredients we have back home. So not so much of a difference. Just that the Dutchies eat a lot of bread and cold lunches even during winter. I love potatoes mashed with vegetables (= stamppot). Pretty similar to a traditional dish (= mukimo) we have. I also love Dutch fish!!!
The differences between education in my country and the Netherlands is that in the Netherlands you have more hands-on teaching and more interaction between the teachers and students. It’s a more collegial relationship.”
Would you recommend GEO @ UT to students back home?
“Yes, definitely. Both for the education and experience, I would recommend GEO @ UT!” Priscilla smiles.