Prior to the completion of my Bachelor Degree at the University of Technology, Jamaica, I served in the Budget Unit at the Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica as a Commitment Control Officer. Having completed my Bachelors Degree in Accounting and Human Resource Management I further moved on to serve in the capacity of Assistant Accountant for Budgets and Management Accounts at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, a Statutory Body in the Public Sector in Jamaica.
I knew I wanted to do a Masters Degree but could not decide on what area of study. Having come from a very poor family background and completed the Bachelors study it was now time to financially assist my younger brother with his studies which resulted in my Masters degree put on hold as I was unable to financially support both of our study.
During my last semester at the University of Technology, Jamaica I was diagnose with the horrifying news of an eye condition called Macular Degeneration, an eye condition that progressively distort the macula, the central portion of the retina impairing central vision, causing the ability to see straight ahead clearly and makes it difficult to read, drive or perform other daily activities that requires central vision.
At first thought, the idea of doing a Masters Degree seemed impossible as I my vision was very poor and I often wondered if I would be able to manage given my eye condition but still with my lionhearted attitude to achieve, I never gave up the idea and was willing to take on any challenge to study if given an opportunity.
Life at Tsinghua
I had the desire to do a Masters but had no clue it would have been in China. Sometimes I would often sit in my room and get so emotional the fact that I got the opportunity to study in China.
Having received the scholarship from the Chinese Government, one of my biggest fears was whether I would be able to manage the Programme. However being a Jamaican, the approach we have toward life is to face every challenge as they come.
I will admit that the eye condition effects, is that at times it can become very embarrassing when you go somewhere and you are not able to fill a form, you are not able to read your notes, you are not able to follow in the class material but it takes hard work, determination and perseverance and a strong mind set to achieve.
Life was very difficult when I first started at Tsinghua as I was unable to read printed books, documents and I remember on one occasion my country mate read to me as we prepare for our course assignments. I read PDF copy of books to prepare for my classes and assignments. Reading these books from the computer coupled with the workload and the eye situation it was very difficult and it felt frustrating. I felt as if I was not doing well and wanted to do so much more but my eye situation did not allow me to.
I remember filling an introductory form for the Public Organization Management Module that asked what we think would be out greatest limitation for the module and I stated that my eye condition was my limitation for the course. Having written it on the form I was not aware that the Professor would have taken note of my limitation note. The class is huge and so I thought he would miss that comment of my limitation.
I remember going for feedback session with the Professor and mentioned to him my eye condition as I needed help as to how to approach the course requirement without having to be “favuored” because of my situation.
The Professor for the module, Professor Lu Xiaoli asked whether I have ever tried to find software that can read out the documents to me. At the time I said no but assured him I would research. I did my research and during my research I found that Adobe has a read out load module which is what I capitalized on and which assisted me greatly during the semester.
For the second semester I managed with the help of student to source full page magnifier which I would use to put on the page of the books and read. See image below:
In most cases I opted to inform the Professors of my eye condition as I did not want it to be any way believed that I needed to be treated deferent from other students. I sat at the front of all the classes and participated in all group presentation as I do believed that it would not have been fair to other students if I am given preferential treatment.
The secret to my success
Tsinghua no doubt is a very huge brand and the standards are very high. To achieve Tsinghua’s standards one has to deeply identify and accept ones limitations, develop and execute your own personal strategy to flow smoothly throughout the journey successfully. Time management played a huge factor also on the journey
Limitations acceptance, Strategy Development and Execution
I was fully aware and accepted that my eye condition was my limitation. I knew my limitation and so I constantly stayed in my room fighting to read though the magnifier glass held very close to my face. It was very difficult and I cried many days and nights as the struggle was unbearable at times. I would be up trying to read and prepare for class up until like anywhere between 4:00 AM – 6:00AM after which I would take a short nap then head off to class and so many times I am in the class and I am sleepy but I am listening. I always endeavor to reach my class very early and would often take a nap in the class before the actual class time commence. Coffee was what kept me alive in the class most days.
Many days I was unable to see the presentations by the Professors in the class but I listened attentively and very keenly, connect the material to my brain and was able to participate also in discussions which was part of course requirements
I have a very fabulous memory and capitalizing on the use of memory was what carried me through this programme successfully. Memory was what helped my in most days with my presentations.
I ensured I did not go out to many places to have fun as I saw it as using up too much of time that could be better spent on assignments, general knowledge building or preparation for classes.
I did not go parties and fun activities with friends however I made sure I attended ALL the social activities organized by the school as this I thought was enough for me to socialize given my circumstances and the amount of time I needed to spend in the books.
The social parties, picnics, visits to museums, Summer Palace, our field trip in Shanghai, and Shanxi Province was were all very awesome trips to which have created so many memories that will never leave our thoughts. I enjoyed every one of the activity and the diverse mix of culture with other students were so amazing.
Time Management and Organization
Proper time management was a key factor on the journey. Every activity I allotted a time to be spent on it and so many times it was very difficult for me to arrange an activity with others as I would generally ask about a time to assign to such activity.
Each day I would organize my time for the entire day to include when I eat, sleep school work, exercise amongst others. I hate to be late and get very miserable when I am late or others are late so proper time management was very critical as part of my strategy to successes.
Helping each fellow colleagues
In spite of my own circumstances, I still found it necessary to assist fellow colleagues whose native language is not English and who needed help with proofreading their assignments before submission.
My circumstances did not stop me from assisting and in some cases I even proofread their work before mine was complete.
This was a very intense journey because it is a one year Programme so everything is always happing parallel which must be completed in the said duration.
What I admire about the Tsinghua University and School of Public Policy and Management is that the activities are well organized and well scheduled and planned so as long as one stick to the schedule, pay careful attention to deadlines and manage ones time carefully no one can go wrong on the journey. It was a very hard journey but doable when time is carefully managed by the student.
I wept openly after the defense decision was made as I knew what it was like on the journey and all the pain I went through throughout the year which puts me in a better position firstly to demonstrate to others in similar situation as mine that there should be no circumstances that should allow you to give up on dreams in life, secondly I am now better equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude as the tools that will assist in contributing positively to my organization and by extension better able to serve and contrite the development of my country Jamaica.
Ii is not my recommendation that my strategy will work for all students. However, one has to be able to identify what are your limitations, develops strategies that work for you, stick to them and execute. Believe in yourself and you will achieve. Whatever the mind conceived it will achieve.
Special thanks to the SPPM family for their support and especially all Professors who taught me throughout the Programme and inspired me, I could not have done it without you. Lessons learnt from all will truly be carried on as I seek to contribute to the development of my country Jamaica.
My gratitude goes out to the Chinese Government: Ministry of Commerce for investing in my career development. I am very appreciative and grateful for the support.