When Mauritania’s Ministry of Fisheries and the Maritime Economy sent out an email publicising the 2014 Tullow Oil and British Council Scholarship scheme’s call for applications, Hammoud El Vadhel, a research engineer at the Mauritanian Institute for Oceanographic and Fisheries Research, didn’t hesitate to apply.
“In Mauritania it’s particularly difficult to register at a French university or finance your own studies,” Hammoud explains by email. “Nevertheless I wanted to go to France because I speak and work in this language, and this scholarship opportunity allowed me to make this possible.”
The Tullow Group Scholarship Scheme, which is managed by the British Council, allows students from African or South American countries where Tullow Oil works to benefit from a vocational, technical or post-graduate degree in a field related to the oil and gas industries at a university in the UK, Ireland or France. The aim is to help build socio-economic sustainability in their home-countries by allowing committed individuals to learn new skills that can help improve their overall development prospects.
Hammoud was accepted to the University of Brest in France where he did a two-year Masters inExpertise and Management of the Littoral Environment. Over the course of his studies, Hammoud was the only African in his course, but this hardly mattered.
“The classes were more complete and varied (than what I was used to), and we had a busy timetable. My classmates and the instructors were all very nice and welcoming. I found the teaching method quite impressive, very rich and fun even – everything was quite different from the Mauritanian system.”
For many international students, making the transition from schooling in their home countries to those in Europe can be challenging. For Hammoud, he faced two main challenges.
“All my previous studies were in Arabic, which meant that suddenly learning in French and English was difficult for me, especially in those initial months,” admits Hammoud. “Of course, this was in addition to the harsh weather in Brest, nonstop rain, wind and grey skies…!”
The Tullow Group and British Council partnered on this project as a joint venture and mutual interest in helping ensure a more skilled and empowered workforce around the world, but particularly in its countries of focus. For scholarship recipients like Hammoud, the experience proved immensely enriching.
“The most useful aspect of what I learned (over these two years) is the multidisciplinary approach…. From a professional point of view, it is a real advantage to understand the problems of managing the littoral, to provide answers adapted to these problems and to integrate them into (my) professional life… This Masters will also allow me to integrate the research activities within my institute, which will enable me to develop my skills in management and evaluation of aquatic resources, relying on aspects of biodiversity.”
But as with any opportunity come ways of improving for the future. Hammoud offers this advice for any other academic scholarship recipients:
“(It’s important) to take full advantage of this important opportunity; take your time in choosing your specialty – one that will be useful should not be limited to your studies. It’s also important to learn other aspects, especially in terms of scientific and cultural activities.”
The Tullow Oil Scholarship Programme is no longer running, as of 2016.