International Students

PASSPORT TO THE FUTURE - Episode One - A Quest For Happiness

PASSPORT TO THE FUTURE - Episode One - A Quest For Happiness

Something was missing in Lawrence’s life and a well-paying job could not fill that void.

With his rapid rise from a hospital representative to a national sales manager in an acclaimed Pharmaceuticals company in Nigeria, it would have been easy to assume that this strong and charismatic person was pleased with their success. Yet, waking up to go to work was a struggle for Lawrence.

Having his pockets filled did nothing to fill the restlessness within.

“I was dying in silence. I no longer enjoyed my work at all but I stayed there for an extra year just to please people,”

Going against the grain, the astute pharmacist eventually left his hard-earned job, fleeing his nest of comfort to embark on a different phase of life; but leaving the corporate world was certainly not easy.

“When I was leaving, my company did not accept my resignation. They said they would give me time to go and study and come back.”

Yet, it was with admirable courage that the PhD student took a leap into the unknown, venturing into England for the first time in his late thirties. After all, it is by letting go of what weighs us down that flight is possible.

A Break for a Purpose

“I just wanted to have the break. Coming to the UK seriously was just to have a break from work. I was tired of work and I needed something different from my life,”

Lawrence, who having spent seven years in Derby, has no regrets of the decision he made to pursue his Masters in Public Health.

Still, behind the desire for a break lay a deep-set motivation for Lawrence to have chosen Public Health research.

“I lost my younger brother during the war to Malaria. Then, because there was no adequate medical care due to the war, the aid was not getting to the right places. Because of this, I wanted to study more about Malaria and most of these other diseases that are in Nigeria and I felt the best way was to do Public Health”

Lawrence speaks calmly about the painful memory that fuelled such a positive transformation in his life. His optimism stretches into university life too, with the independent researcher seizing opportunities around him to help him grow as a noteworthy academic. At present he has taken up the offer of being an Associate Professor alongside the completion of his PhD, responding to the currents of change in his quest for happiness.

“I’m sure that in every university you will see people who complain. Even if you spoon feed them with everything, it’s just natural that there are people who just complain instead of finding ways to go around their challenge. I had already started building up my skills. I didn’t notice any shortcomings [at Derby University] but for a person who depends on others, they’re bound to complain,”

As to why he had selected Derby, Lawrence recalls how a representative from the University of Derby had explained to him at a career fair in Nigeria that, “It was in the top twenty universities in the UK. They said Derby was the safest city and a friendly place too, and that the university had good support for international students.”

Derby’s Inviting Culture

When asked about whether it was easy to integrate into a foreign culture, Lawrence does not hesitate to express how inviting he finds the pubs in Derby.

“When I came and stayed at Princess Alice Court - it is one of the official University residences. The first day, I went to a local pub. As a salesman, when I go to a new station, the fastest place to make friends is in a pub. As soon as I got in there, everyone was so nice to me. They were like, “Hey! I have not seen you here. How are you and where are you from? I made so many friends... I am not sure if that would be possible in a very big city.”

Lawrence's spirits appear instantly uplifted by thoughts of the pub.

Compared to bigger cities in England, he feels that the culture of Derby shares more similarities with his home country of Nigeria.

“I don’t even like noisy or very big places.. I prefer small places like Derby. Because I grew up in a very big city, it can be overwhelming sometimes. And also, I have an auntie that lives in London and she told me that for so many years she was living there...she never said ‘hi’. She never saw her neighbour..they hardly see you or greet themselves..which is awkward.

Where I come from, people greet. You come out in the morning and you greet your neighbour!

It’s that way in Derby. It is more friendly. That kind of thing - it still exists. Sometimes, it still feels like my home because of the way people welcome you.”

Written by
Clarabelle Gerard

Clarabelle Gerard is a content writer and researcher based in Derbyshire. She is interested in issues affecting social mobility and equality of opportunity for students.