First-generation student Joy: “It is not a given that I can study. So, I want to gain everything from it I can”

What is it like, being the first generation to go to university? We are talking about this topic with various UM students. Joy Osadebawem Daniel from Luxembourg is one of them. Her parents, originally from Nigeria, didn’t always have an easy time after arriving in Luxembourg. But they taught Joy an important lesson: “The sky is the limit”. Encouraged by her parents and with a scholarship in her pocket, Joy exchanged Luxembourg for Maastricht, where she studies at the European Law School. “I sometimes need to remind myself that I really can do this.”

Limburg or Luxembourg?

Would it be Limburg or Luxembourg? Joy grappled with this question for a while. For many reasons, she preferred the idea of studying abroad. First, she thought it would be fun to get to know a new environment. Second, she wanted to learn to stand on her own two feet by leaving home. “I was looking for a challenge. Studying abroad seemed like a good opportunity to discover more about myself and see how I manage in a totally different environment”, explains Joy. Smiling, she adds: “That has been going very well thus far.”

When Joy raised the idea of studying abroad, her parents found it nervewracking. They wondered whether Joy was too young, and whether it would be difficult for her to be by herself in a different country. At the same time, they fully supported Joy’s decision. “They have always supported me in everything I do.”

The last push

The last push to study at UM happened when Joy was awarded a scholarship. She had applied for the Jo Ritzen Scholarship and, to her own great surprise, was awarded it. “When I submitted my CV and motivation letter, I never expected to actually get the scholarship. I was in shock when I received an email with the text: ‘Congratulations, you are being awarded the scholarship!’. I immediately rang my parents to tell them the news. Then, I had no choice but to fully go for it.”

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The sky is the limit

Joy’s parents came to Luxembourg from Nigeria. For them, building a life in a completely different country was not always easy. Joy explains: “They had a difficult time when they first arrived in Luxembourg. Because of everything they went through back then, I have the opportunities that I now have. I am very grateful for that. Precisely because these opportunities are not a given, I believe that I need to get everything out of life. It is a privilege that I can study.”

‘The sky is the limit’ is something that Joy’s parents had always taught her and her sister. It is exactly this thought that keeps Joy going when she experiences difficulties with studying. She is sometimes burdened by imposter syndrome: a nagging thought making you doubt your own skills or accomplishments. “I sometimes think, ‘Why am I here? I don’t deserve this.’ For instance, I recently took a course that I struggled a lot with at the start. But I kept reminding myself that I could do it, and that I wasn’t the only one having those thoughts. And indeed, after a few weeks, I understood the course better.”

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Read about the UM’s scholarships

You shape your own future

Joy has advice for other first-generation students: “Remind yourself constantly that you are shaping your own future. Nothing is impossible. When I grew up, I experienced a lot of racism. That wasn’t easy. But the people who were mean to me back then are the same ones who saw me win the scholarship. You can do more than you think.”

Joy concludes: “Believe in yourself and listen to the people who encourage you. Being the first generation to study is a privilege and an honour.”

Text: Romy Veul
Photography: Joris Hilterman

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