Fulbright scholarship gave me an edge to be a success back home

CIKIDA Gcali says a Fulbright scholarship can open many doors for people, as it did for her when she studied petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.

The Star | February 28, 2019 | Tieho Lungile Matsuma

The prestigious scholarship afforded her the opportunity to study towards a master’s degree in petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma in the US.

Her research focused on how to optimise the production of natural gas using artificial lift methods.

Before going to the US, she completed an honours degree in chemical engineering concentrating on how to create biofuels using waste materials in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.

CIKIDA Gcali says a Fulbright scholarship can open many doors for people, as it did for her when she studied petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.
CIKIDA Gcali says a Fulbright scholarship can open many doors for people, as it did for her when she studied petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.

She believes the scholarship and the chance to study overseas opened doors for her.

“It was really enlightening. I grew a lot. And I learnt how education can broaden you beyond just what you’re learning. So I got involved in a lot of things online outside of what I was studying.”

She became the treasurer of Tulsa University’s student investment fund valued at $5 million “and that opened doors I could’ve never imagined, so it was a great opportunity”, said Gcali.

She applied for the scholarship because she wanted to pursue her interest in petroleum – an industry she believes has a potential to grow.

“I applied for the scholarship because I have a real interest in petroleum and I just had a feeling that the petroleum industry in South Africa would come to a boom.

“I wanted to prepare myself and I felt that the scholarship would be the best way to do that because the US is one of the most established petroleum markets in the world. I wanted to be there and learn how they got it right,” said Gcali.

Applications for the scholarship close on April 19 for those who want to pursue master’s and doctoral studies in the US in the 2020-2021 academic year.

The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and living expenses.

On whether she would encourage people to apply for the scholarship, she said: “It is filled with a huge network of amazing people, with people from South Africa and across the world.

“You’ll become just a better person from the experience of studying abroad. The friendships you’ll make you’d probably keep forever. And it’s an unforgettable experience.”

“The advice that I have for prospective students is that they should really be present and appreciate the fullness of their experience because it goes by a lot quicker than you actually imagine.

“So when they are accepted they should travel as much as they can, they should explore as many opportunities as they can that the Fulbright offers – it’s just not a scholarship… Fulbright can open up so many doors, so they can leverage those and be very wise about that,” said Gcali.

Credit: The Star,  February 28, 2019. Written by Tieho Lungile Matsuma