Leepile Mompati Keeme, a Botswana national, has a tiny family – his parents have five children. Yet while there are numerous universities and colleges in Botswana, only one of Leepile’s brothers graduated from a local university. The others went to study abroad, having chosen either China, South Africa, or the US.
“Universities in my country are equipped with the necessary infrastructure, and our government allocates monthly scholarships to youth; it even covers some living costs of students. The labor market is, however, overwhelmed with graduates of local universities. As unemployment in Botswana is quite high – reaching up to 45% among young people – foreign education becomes a significant advantage. The fact that several countries – most notably the UK, which remains a significant investor in our economy – grant us reductions in tuition fees makes it easier for us.
I wanted to see the world too but did not want to study in the EU or America. Once I found out I had a chance to enter a Russian university, I decided to apply,” says Leepile Mompati Keeme, a student at St. Petersburg Mining University.
Hundreds of school children from any part of Botswana participate in an annual contest held by Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization responsible for promoting Russian education services abroad. These applicants end up competing for one of the 21 quotas available to Botswanans. Leepile passed the entrance test and chose power engineering as a future speciality, for he was always interested in physics and everything related to electrical engineering.
Applicants who are granted a quota can choose a university they would want to study at. The young man from Botswana chose St. Petersburg Mining University, mainly because of the recommendations he was given by representatives of Rossotrudnichestvo at the Embassy. They told him that the Mining University was ranked as one of the top-20 universities by subject ranking in the QS World University Rankings. Besides, they informed him of the fact that the university pays particular attention to adapting international students to the new environment.
As Leepile explains, “Before the trip, I had hardly known anything about Russia, and therefore I came across some situations I had to get used to. As such, I did not understand what was it like to live in a dorm room. In Botswana, people usually live in their own houses, and I had a hard time confining myself to living within four walls.”
Another surprise for Leepile was that language of tuition was Russian, whereas in his home country students are taught in English. Luckily, there is a preparatory faculty at which students coming from abroad are actively learning the new language. Thanks to it, the Mining University’s student had become almost fluent in Russian by the end of the first year.
The most notable difference between the Botswanan and Russian education systems, as Leepile says, is the attitude towards sports. In Botswana, the physical and intellectual development of students takes an equal part in the school’s curriculum.
“In my country, a career in sports is not by any means less prestigious than in any other industry. Here, in Russia, science always comes first, and sports activities are perceived as something that is needed to stay fit. At first, I found it difficult to keep focus without exercising enough, but then I got into boxing,” shares Leepile.
Leepile is sure he did not make a mistake at choosing a country and university. As he says, one can feel the Mining university is a top one through the technical capacity of its laboratories. Students spend much time working in there because practical classes help understand theoretical concepts and ideas better.
Last summer, the student underwent an internship and became impressed at seeing how a modern power plant should be functioning.
“I want to come back home and help my country in delivering regional electricity projects. It would be amazing if I manage to get a job in some Russian company that would open up a branch in Botswana. I can speak Russian, and as I am about to graduate soon, I believe I could be useful for that kind of enterprise. There are currently no Russian energy companies present in Botswana, but it may change anytime soon,” hopes Leepile.