Tabitha Olang exemplifies academic excellence and brilliance at a young age. She’s a young achiever; a First Class Honors holder in Bachelor of Business Science Actuarial Science degree; a beneficiary of I&M scholarship; and a potential Masters student scheduled to join the Graduates Program in Sustainability Science courtesy of the Japanese Government Scholarship. This life-changing opportunity is as a result of her research proposal titled Sustainable Renewable Energy Financing in Emerging Economies, under the supervision of Professor Miguel Esteban from University of Tokyo. Recently, Tabitha together with Professor Miguel got an opportunity to share insights with students studying Japanese her experiences so far. She is working at IBM Research Africa under the business delivery unit, Re-Imagine Business in Kenya.
Who is Tabitha?
A very ambitious lady from a not-so-privileged background, who wants to make a difference in her community. I have been on scholarship for the better part of my studies. I studied at St. Mary’s Lwak Girls’ High School, under the sponsorship of two alumni of Lwak. I attained a mean grade of A in KCSE national exams and ranked in the top 100 student list in Nyanza Province. This had initially earned me an entry into University of Nairobi to study Law.
How did you Join Strathmore?
Before I enrolled at UoN, I registered for CPAs at Strathmore, and this piqued my interest in enrolling for a Bachelors program at Strathmore. My classmates encouraged me to seek a scholarship opportunity, and consequently I found myself in the Dean’s office. He guided me through the process highlighting on available scholarships. I was fortunate enough to be a beneficiary of I&M scholarship; a full-four year scholarship that included accommodation and monthly stipends. I felt very privileged and humbled.
How can you describe your Strathmore experience?
My four years at the university were as intense as they were fulfilling. I had targets to meet every year since I was on scholarship. Therefore I was always on my toes reading and striving for excellence. While at school I decided to study a foreign language as an elective, I chose Japanese. In my third year, my Japanese Sensei (lecturer) Wairua asked me if I would be interested in studying in Japan, exposing me to the Japanese Government Scholarship.
Building on to your area of interest
I had initially undertaken the industrial-based attachments at an insurance firm and a bank. Although those were career opportunities open for students studying Acturial Science, something felt a miss. During my final year, I interned at Quest Works Limited, the company in-charge of solar installation project at Strathmore, during this period I found what I was looking for. Coming from a village set-up in Nyanza, grid-connected hydro energy is difficult to tap into. This made the solar panel renewable energy project quite exciting for me at an individual level. I felt that the idea resonated perfectly with my talents and worldviews.
Application process for the Japanese Government Scholarship
I must admit that the application process was long and tedious but worth it. Sensei Wairua guided me in getting all my applications requirements in order. I started preparing early in January, especially in getting the research proposal ready, this was the most important part of the application requirement. Although the openings would commence in May-June, I had all documents ready weeks before the deadline. I got a call to notify me that I had been shortlisted and I was invited first for an English test interview, and later, for a panel interview where I competed against 13 other applicants. At the interview we discussed my research proposal and coping mechanisms as well as my flexibility towards adapting to Japanese culture. Immediately the interview ended I received a certificate confirming that I had been awarded the scholarship. It was an exciting day for me. The next step was to get a professor who would be my supervisor, and after several attempts, I got Prof. Miguel. I was later admitted to the Graduate Program in Sustainability Sciences- Global Leadership initiative at the University of Tokyo. I was among five students who won scholarships from Kenya and the only one from Strathmore, I realized that the academic rigour and wide curriculum is of great advantage. My undergraduate studies strengthened my application process especially while preparing for the research proposal. Seeing my paper receive global recognition from professors, was an affirmation that indeed I had placed my career in the best hands by choosing to study at Strathmore.
On coping in Japan
Studying Japanese language here at Strathmore has provided me with a very good foundation of the Japanese culture, this I believe will neutralize the culture shock. I am optimistic that I will have a fantastic experience as I increase my knowledge in this field of study. We wish Tabitha the best in her future endeavors.