University College Cork
Vitalis Jafla Pontianus – MA Sociology / PhD Candidate
- How did you discover the MA in Sociology at UCC, and what attracted you to the programme?
I had my undergraduate’s studies in sociology while in Nigeria and after it I wanted to further my knowledge in that field. I wanted to check other universities in English speaking countries in Europe. This narrowed me down to England and Ireland as my top choices. I think what finally made me settle for Ireland and UCC in particular was the prompt response I was receiving as I communicated with the school and some nice stories shared by students who had studied here in Cork.
- Did you have any hesitations about studying abroad, or in Cork?
There was no hesitation about studying abroad or in Cork. I had known while in Nigerian an Irish missionary who was really a nice person and he was from Cork and had said few good things about his people so I had no fear of coming to Cork.
- Did you feel connected to the University during your experience? What was it like communicating with and getting to know, your lecturers and fellow classmates?
This is where UCC is unique by my estimation. The lecturers are warm hearted, encourage individual thinking and insight into discourses during lectures which for me was new and exciting. The connection with the university community was really easy especially with the way registration and orientation was made so easy. This indirectly set a relaxing tone which really gave me a good start. Given the fact that I met lecturers and workers in the university from different national background, race and religion, it was easy to feel and see people you can easily connect with.
- What was your favourite aspect of this programme?
Most lecturers gave me the opportunity to explore topics and ideas I was interested in. This gave me so much freedom to mature in things I was really interested in. Unlike other universities where assignments are given with specifications limiting one to certain topics or issues. This really made my studies relaxing because I often research on topics or issues, I already had interest in.
- What would you say to someone who was considering enrolling in this programme?
I will encourage him or her to go ahead because the world is evolving every day and understanding the society and the social interactions that occur either locally or globally is to understand the world and how to relate with it..
- Since completing this Masters, has your perspective/understanding of Sociology changed?
Yes. My world has been enriched. I have also met many people from diverse background and together we have shared a lot of views and experiences which has really widened my reality. Other optional modules that are offered in the school like sustainability and career training have also added value to what I can do and my capacity to serve in other fields of discipline.
- How do you feel your MA in Sociology at UCC will benefit you in your career? Do you think it sets you apart in your field?
In my MA in sociology, I was more interested in environmental sociology and my thesis was on climate change which is a global burning issue. Though climate change is talked about in Nigeria, I knew very little about it as a concern of the global community. I believe that the knowledge acquired especially in UCC where environmental concerns and sustainability is not only talked about but lived out in every aspect of the school’s life was a priceless experience that I believe will be very useful in Nigeria.
- Finally, tell us about your current PhD journey and your future career plans.
My PhD program is on sociology and is a qualitative study of the social and cultural effects of IDP camps on host communities in Borno state (Northern Nigeria).
Global displacement of persons through armed conflict, organised crime, ecological degradation as a result of climate change, food shortages and developmental projects have become a common trend in the world of today. These displaced persons end up either as migrants, refugees seeking asylum, resettlement, or as internally displaced persons within their own country. These displaced persons cannot easily go back to their homes because of the impending threats to their lives. Most of these IDPs have no choice than to reside in camps that are often ad hoc in nature.
This study therefore aims to examine, from a sociological perspective, the social and cultural effects these camps exact on host communities. It will explore how exchanges between host communities and displaced peoples give rise to new trends, such as new economies, new patterns of social interaction and cultural expectations. The objective is to develop a better knowledge and understanding of such emerging scenarios as they affect North Eastern Nigeria (Borno State) in the hope of putting forward certain recommendations and devising a schema of best practice guidelines for the future management and indeed the future of IDPs in Nigeria and the world at large.
The journey thus far has been quite exciting, though challenging because of COVID restrictions. My supervisors and the effort I see the university is putting in place to make online learning easy have been quite helpful.
As for the future I hope to teach in a higher institution. I don’t want to say I am a lecturer I wish to say I am impacting lives with knowledge. This demands preparation and UCC has been wonderful in providing me with the atmosphere and intellectual experts to believe this dream is possible.