Career & Education

Jamaican heads to Denmark on Erasmus Mundus Scholarship

Sunday, June 25, 2017

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Yohan Lee, a recent graduate of the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, has also been selected for one of only 15 Erasmus Mundus scholarships from an applicant pool of nearly 500 students across the globe.

The 27-year-old will also be the first Jamaican to pursue a Master in Journalism, Media and Globalisation, a programme that has been offered under the European Union's prestigious scholarship scheme since 2005.

He will begin the two-year degree programme taught collaboratively at Aarhus University in Denmark and University of Hamburg in Germany in September.

Erasmus Mundus is a cooperation and mobility programme in the field of higher education that aims to enhance the quality of European higher education, and promotes dialogue and understanding between people and cultures through cooperation with Third-World countries. It is open to the world, allowing for students from outside Europe to choose from 116 Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's Degrees and 29 Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate programmes. The scholarships cover tuition fees, a travel/installation contribution, insurance, a monthly subsistence allowance, and administration costs. Additionally, the programme offers an invaluable exchange, allowing participants to study in more than one partner country.

Up to 2015, 21 Jamaicans have been awarded an Erasmus Mundus scholarship.

Lee, who holds a first class honours Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Journalism and Gender and Development Studies, is the most recent Caribbean recipient of his programme's scholarship, which has only been awarded to two nationals from Cuba. However, it was not his first time applying.

“In my last semester at CARIMAC I applied for the scholarship with high hopes that I would get through. But it wasn't to be then. I was admitted to do the master's, but did not receive the scholarship. The most difficult part of the ordeal was that I received an email stating otherwise, in error, and it was the eve of my 26th birthday,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Though programme administrators encouraged him to accept the self-funded option, it was not feasible due to lack of adequate financial resources.

“It was enticing, but I knew I couldn't afford to pay for higher education on my own, especially outside of Jamaica. My mother did her best to help me fund undergraduate studies here, but I eventually had to seek further assistance and relief for her. To do that, I had to work really hard and find opportunities. Merit-based scholarships, namely the Arnold Foote Foundation and Daphne Plummer scholarships, as well assistance from my mother's employer, Chungs Catering Services, covered everything. Naturally, I figured that formula would work for me again,” Lee continued.

Following that disappointment, the St George's College alumnus accepted a job offer with Maverick Communications Limited, an integrated marketing communications firm where he has worked as communications officer for over a year. Once the Erasmus Mundus application period rolled around again, Lee tried his luck, hoping to receive a favourable response this time. And he did.

“We are very happy and excited for Yohan,” Maverick Communications CEO Melody Cammock-Gayle said. “We will miss his exceptional writing skill and work ethic, but we do want him to pursue his master's, and garner all the wonderful experiences that may be had studying while also exploring Europe. Yohan has a very bright future ahead of him and we wish him all the very best,” she added. said of Yohan.

While at UWI, Lee maintained a presence on the Dean's List for all three years, despite being older than classmates and taking on extra credits each semester. He ranked third in the faculty of Humanities and Education in his first year. A year later, he would move up to first place, snatching the Dean's Award for top academic performance for the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 academic years. He was also nominated for the coveted title of class valedictorian and graduated top student at both the faculty and department levels. With a 4.04 GPA, he emerged as the recipient of CARIMAC's Director Award for Top Student and the prize for top journalism student, the first male student to do so.

Lee's high achievement also extended beyond the classroom. He won a Jamaica Broilers Fair Play Award while interning with Global Reporters for the Caribbean, producers of the television magazine programme 18 Degrees North. He was also ranked in the top 25 competitors in the international Voices2Paris climate change story competition while serving as editor-in-chief of the 2016 edition of CARIMAC Times.

In addition to his success in the humanities faculty, Lee was inducted into the Institute for Gender and Development Studies' Honour Roll for two consecutive years, copping its highest award — the Dorian Powell Prize for academic excellence.

“I respect journalism as a profession and believe in the power of my combination of undergraduate programmes,” said Lee.

Of the scholarship win, the young man said he is experiencing “a prolonged state of awe” and that the process has taught him a life lesson.

“I would encourage anyone to apply and give themselves the chance to develop what they have to offer the world. I've faced setbacks more times than I can count, an example being my late entry into university. But I continue to learn to maximise on those shortfalls in the plan I have for my life. Falling or being rejected will never be easy to deal with, but when you pick yourself up and try again, and you eventually win, reversing that outcome will mean even more to you,” he said, sounding more mature than his 27 years.

Lee, a former Rotoractor, currently volunteers with Jamaica Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and J-FLAG. He hopes to one day apply his skills to work at the highest level in human rights policy and practice.

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