Stella Dimoko How To Start An International Career In Academia Or Related Fields


Advertisement - Mobile In-Article

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

How To Start An International Career In Academia Or Related Fields

This MUST READ post is strictly about charting a career in academia/research that is not bound by geographical limitations. For those in other disciplines, you might have or two things to take away from this, so please don't stop reading.

I am passionate about Nigerian youths, and I think Stella's blog get dem plenty. My ultimate goal is to make a difference to an audience, even if it's just an audience of just one.
To get started, I have to dispel certain myths:


I can't overemphasise this: your performance in your undergrad can be a deal breaker for you in achieving you dream academic career. I know some people say it's not important etc etc.

In Nigeria, where anything goes, this might work but, we are trying to achieve something internationally isn't it? So this is very important.
Disclaimer: if you know that you want to end up in entrepreneurship, entertainment, sports etc this might not be relevant. As I said earlier, my post is for those interested in academics and related fields like consultancy etc. Also it might not matter if you're part of the 1% academic elites with resounding start up ideas and concepts e.g the Gates and the Zuckerbergs. But, sometimes even if you're that , to break out first , you need a leveller (something to be considered with at entry level, thus your undergrad degree might come to play).

Now, performing average e.g 2:1 like I did, might not impact your chances a lot, especially if you make up for it in other areas. Performing below e.g an equivalent of a 3.5/5 might hurt your chances, except of course, if you can make up for it with an exceptional Msc/MPhil/ PGD program as the case may require. You can also make up for it with a lot of research experience(s) and or excellent work experience(s) as your case may require.

Now that being said: Undergrad degree is just a plus. Many people are just book smart. The way courses are structured in Nigerian schools encourage that as well the "cram and regurgitate" lifestyle. The reality is you need to work smart in real life, you need to be bold in getting what you want, and resilient. You also need to "up" your reading and writing skills. That's why many first class students don't go far, they are not smart really in the sense of it. Life is not "cram and pour" like in college. Grad school, PhD, succeeding in academia, consulting for organisations does not use "cram and pour" skills in any way, shape or form. Any bright student who wants to go far must know what he/she is doing, and not just relax thinking he/she has arrived with the so called first class or 2:1 degree. Undergraduate degree is not a sole predictor of success, and evaluating committees know this, that's why they always consider applications holistically.


If you can go through Nigeria's educational institution: with its rigours, stress, and hardship, believe me you can succeed anywhere, if you know what you're doing.

Students from Harvard, UToronto , Yale etc are not different from you! Believe me, I have interacted with them and hold my own fine. You are not inferior because of your skin colour. I have consistently been in the top 3% with all courses I've taken so far, which includes oral presentations and labs.
My point is -Your dreams are valid, you can be anything regardless of your background. Don't give up!


I'm sorry to burst your bubble - especially for the typical first generation Nigerian university students with chips on the shoulders. Let me tell you the truth: In the international context, this doesn't really matter. I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University, so it's not because of where I finished from. All the "great Ife" hails and all that.... actually ends at the gate when you collect that certificate. After that , you will be welcomed to the real world where reality starts. 

On the international scale, most times the adcoms (admission-committees) or grant boards might never have heard of your university before. Remember that the best university in Nigeria might be on a 500ish position on the world ranking scale, so go figure....

That's why I emphasise so much on doing well in undergrad regardless of where you finish from. Great scores will count well for you. Other levellers are GREs and GMAT exams as well as the English proficiency exam.
I will write more about that in the next post. Nothing goes for nothing, the more funding you want, the more you should be ready to work hard to make a stellar application.

In my case, I prepared hard for the GRE (with an infant), so you have no excuse. I was actually unemployed when preparing, and sacrificed my hair money for the exams. I took my time, took it once and maxed out in both the GRE and TOEFL (in the 80th percentile).
It's better to prepare hard and take it once than take multiple times.


I will just touch a little on this, your relationship/character matter because your references will matter when trying to get into grad school, getting a fully funded PhD or MSC spot or research grant e.t.c

Try to have a good relationship with your supervisors, lecturers and Profs. One of the ways this can be done is working hard at whatever your hand finds to do. Don't try to cut corners, do your best. Also always be polite. Don't ever let your relationships with your supervisors go sour. He/she is an extremely important part of your career. In case of conflict, be tactful. Wisdom is profitable to apply says the Bible. Academia can sometimes be like a cult, referral and strong recommendations can often times be everything. This is the hard reality. It's like that almost everywhere. Remember whatever you're going through either in grad school or college is for a while, hold on and hold out.

 I know some Professors can be crazy, but you have everything to lose if you lash back at a crazy boss.
Be tactful, and smart cos it is what is is!


You have to start thinking the right thoughts. Get your thoughts together and get it right! I see so many comments on SDKs blog and I shake my head because many people complain and say the opposite of what they want in their lives.

The Bible says "as a man thinketh so is he". My God!! people are so oblivious to how much the thoughts can chart their destinies. Even science proves it that once you think something over and again it moves from your consciousness to your semi consciousness, once it enters your inner consciousness, you are done for. You will begin to act out your thoughts: In short your thoughts will be your reality. Everything that I have thought, wanted, and written down in specific details- down to the country where I want to do my PhD, is coming to pass exactly as I wanted it! Start thinking the right thoughts. I can write a whole book on this


You get what you negotiate for in life. If you think you're not even qualified - then you fail before even starting (it's called failure by default).
So I got my certificates and all together and walked into the office of the HOD of department of my preferred discipline (I won't mention the name to keep my anonymity). Fortunately, he was on seat. I walked in, and told him my name, and that I wanted to know if there was a recruitment coming up (This is because it's a federal university, and any recruitment has to be endorsed from Abuja).

He looked at me, and asked "who are you?" It actually sounded as "who the hell are you?" That was an opportunity to sell myself and boy, did I!
I told him all about myself, my internships home and abroad, showed him my transcripts, I particularly emphasised on the skills I gained abroad , and my deep knowledge of spectroscopic equipment and analyses.

Needless to say , 9 months later when the recruitment came up, he wrote a strong letter of recommendation for me, and I was the only one - a Yoruba Lady, picked as an Assistant Lecturer among so many of the candidates that came for the interview. So you see ethnicity doesn't matter (mind you my husband is Yoruba too). It's just about what you bring to the table!

I worked for a very short while, but had to quit to go to Canada for my PhD in one of the top 10 uni, with my family.
The scholarship was very competitive and fully funded by the school (with no strings attached e.g return home etc)

Only two International students were chosen: which was your babe here, and someone from Europe.
In my next post, I will be elaborating about how I gave myself an edge in Nigeria as a student wanting to go into academia e.g. joining international societies, and developing critical reading and writing skills (this is non-negotiable in academia) .

Also I will speak on how to apply for visas (I have travelled to several countries by God's grace and never been denied visas for my family as well) . I think visa issues are critical, the goal here is to be a researcher not limited by geography, this you will definitely be needing visas till maybe you acquire an overriding immigrant status somewhere else. 

The first visa application is crucial, as previous success/failure often impact on subsequent ones, so get it right from the start. We will talk about visas in the next post.

Please note: I will only be speaking about visiting researcher visas, study visas,and student dependant visas, I do not really know much about other visa categories- apologies in advance for that.


So briefly about me- I finished from the hard sciences from OAU with a 2:1 (almost made a first class, but I didn't- This fact is very important, as it shows that If I can make it in spite of this, you can too)
I did my Master's in environmental Chemistry from the same (finished this time with a distinction). I landed a fellowship in Europe for some months, after that I came back and moved to the east because of marriage. I was not afraid of starting from the scratch because I believed in what God had put in me.
Before going further, I want to say that my faith is a very important part of who I am. I am a Christian and I believe in the unlimited power of God to do exceedingly above what I ask for. I also believe he has put all I need in me. I believe that no matter where my feet steps, he has given me as an inheritance regardless of my ethnicity and skin colour.

When I got to the east (where my husband works). I took some months out to have my baby and heal. Then I looked around for their federal university.
Thank you so much for your audience,

SDK's love child

*WOW This is such an Interesting read!!!


  1. Really interesting, following this bumper to bumper.
    I am a global citizen😉

  2. This is great! The kind of post I live! I die here!!

    This is a well written and concise! !

  3. I graduated from.OAU with 3.5 cpga, I finished my masters with a 4.9 cpga,cut off for PhD is 5.0,currently on Mphil/PhD,I am interested in pursuing a career in academics,is this possible

    1. Please, tell me you have at least 1-2 years real life working experience as a teacher or otherwise.

      It will be a crying shame if all you've been doing is rake in more certificates.

    2. Absolutely. You've started the process already I assume with your terminal MPhil, you just have to do well so it continues straight into PhD as it should. I'm assuming the masters GPA is out of 7 right?
      One tip: focus on publishing. Publish and publish. Also look for possibility for collaboration. One way you can achieve this is to join international research organisations. Some are very specific. Look for the ones in your field and join, not just national societies. Then attend conferences, you don't have to spend your money to go. There are many bodies ready to fimund conferences if you will present there. This is how you meet other scientists and maybe even get invited to their labs for short term fellowships.
      All the best!

    3. Anything is possible, you just have to want it so bad.
      Continue,and put all your best this time.
      Also don't get distracted. I turned down a banking job because I knew this was what I wanted, and I knew I wanted to become an Assistant Prof before a particular age. Academia is sweet when you're established young. Stay focused, it will be worth it at the end

  4. I follow put. Please more of this. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm fired up.

    1. Thank you Amaka. That's what I want. We are limitless!!!

  6. So was it in Europe that you interacted with graduates from havard and came out top?

    1. Before you become cynical, read again and check if I ever said I interacted with them in Europe.
      Interactions can occur anywhere: in conferences , classes...I interacted with them simple! Take it or leave it!
      This is my own story, and as long as it helps someone get better, I'm satisfied.

  7. @SDK's love child no the PhD grade starts from 5.0 and ends at 6.0 in UI,I am not on an Mphil programme but Mphil/PhD

    1. Ok sorry for the mix up. I thought it was a terminal MPhil you were doing (the sort that ends smoothly in a PhD).
      You could also apply for lecturing jobs, so you could get teaching experience as someone pointed up especially when you start your PhD.
      It's easier here cos often times PhD students are teaching assistants. Remember also that a doctorate is just the beginning, and we still have a long way to go.
      We will get there😁😁

    2. Yes,thanks,would be converting to PhD God willing by March

  8. How do I discover the conferences

    1. Hi you could google search with key words : e.g inorganic
      compounds conferences Kenya, Netherland etc as the case may be.
      Also there are some other sites I know of : opportunity desk, findaphd, gradcafe, nairaland (in the education category).
      Also in national conferences in Nigeria, you can meet other students in your field, talk to them. Conferences are usually good places to network, you meet other people like you in a relaxed atmosphere.
      Finally, your supervisor is a good source. Find time to talk to him/her about your professional ambitions.
      My Nigerian supervisor was particularly very helpful.
      Hope this helps!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Took my time to read through. It’s a whole lot of information all over the place, with a narrative that seems too cut and dry (I did this and it resulted in that or I knew I wanted that and didn’t settle for that). Also so much unnecessary detail, that leaves the readers wondering what exactly is the point of the entire narrative and where it’s located in the epistle? What have I taken out of it? That an aspiring researcher should publish (common sense) or that I graduated from ife wouldn’t matter outside the shores of Nigeria (given our research output and education budget as a nation it’s a no brainer) or that my relationship with a person who grades my course work ie my supervisor matters a lot (wow is that so! who would have guessed, unbelievable). While I commend your effort pls try to go straight to the point of how we can start an international career in academia or research from Nigeria or abroad for those that want to relocate. Thanks Stella for giving the writer this platform. A little about me I graduated BSc with a 4.1CGPA (Sciences), went on to work in the pharmaceutical industry, a medical lab and a bank (yep this is naija and there were bills to pay) and also have 2 Masters degrees in a medical science and the life sciences both acquired at UK universities on full scholarship. I returned to Nigeria according to my scholarship modalities and trust me nepotism, corruption, mediocrity, a lack of understanding of the merits of science to development etc has been all I’ve seen. I plan to relocate either back to the UK or Canada after contributing immensely to science here (well documented pro bono trainings in GLPs etc to government institutions). Looking forward to reading your up coming write ups.

    1. Writer. It appears you have UK qualifications. Why not apply to Phd programs here in the US or Germany. Your chances are higher if you did lab work in the UK that can be attested to by your UK professors.Many of the schools here don't require GRE anymore.Goodluck.

    2. Thank you for telling us about yourself unnecessarily and subtly insulting the poster. Good job. In one breath you're commending, in another you're condemning the poster. I don't get the point of your critique either.
      Poster thank you for your encouraging piece.

    3. 14:21
      No body wants to know about you and your 2 masters if you have nothing to offer.
      You have nothing to offer.

      This poster has something to offer.
      Read carefully.
      If you still do not understand ask someone to translate into pidgin English or your native dialect.

      Poster please carry on.

      I've learnt something.

      Thank you.

  11. Thanks for sharing SDK's love child. I really appreciate. I am also waiting to read on how to apply for a visa.
    This is a very insightful piece.

    1. Thank you Marigold. I will definitely put it together as I'm an advocate of DIY visa applications if you can.
      It will all be from my perspective tho as I'm not an authority....

  12. Thank you poster, even though I am not interested in academia, I found a lot of your opinions useful and the absolute truth if extrapolated to individual situations.
    Looking forward to reading more posts from youm

    1. Thank you Dainty T for the feedback. I'm happy it made a difference

    2. @ Anonymous 12:40,I have about 5 years teaching experience and one year managerial experience,the truth is not Every one in the process of obtaining a PhD would work in academics,we must all try to acquire skills outside our field,who knows when it would come in handy

  13. Wow, glad to see a post like this on this blog. Thanks to the poster!
    On the side, it amuses me to see people indirectly compete with Ivy Leagues or try to diminish their standings to prove a point. I have a cousin who always does that, and I'm like if you ain't threatened by them, why do you care? Let me point out that Ivy Leagues is not just about academic's about a track-record of excellent achievements spanning centuries, and building a strong alumni network with the inspiration that anything is possible. For instance, Harvard has produced 8 US Presidents, 30 foreign Presidents, 160 Nobel Laureates, over 100 Olympic medals, over 200 billionaires and so on. No other school comes close, this is no coincidence, so they must be doing something right. They deserve all the accolades they get. And note that these are all not intellectual achievements. (No, I will not even list their patents & inventions & scientific awards)

    My point is Ivy Leagues are about holistic education, and that is why we hear of their alumni who dropped out of school or had poor grades who still make it in life. From Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates to Barack Obama - their mind, their guts, their thinking. Holistic education is an approach that Nigeria is yet to adopt. It focuses on each individual's strength. I will define it and leave it at that. "Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace." I once used to say what's special about Harvard, but what we should be asking is How did they do it? And how do we copy their approach?

  14. Nice piece @SDK Love Child,Thanks for sharing your story.I am humbly learning at your feet

  15. Thank you SDK Love child, this is exactly what I need. I lost hope when I was rejected for many scholarships abroad, currently doing my masters here in Nigeria. Please let us know about the Visa application posts and more information on conferences. God bless you

  16. Thanks for sharing this information. God bless you.

  17. I love this. I'm bookmarking this page. Thank you @ SDK's love child for this nice piece.

  18. Wow, that's what I was seeking for, what a data! present here at this
    blog, thanks admin of this site.

    Kjøp Fotballdrakter


Disclaimer: Comments And Opinions On Any Part Of This Website Are Opinions Of The Blog Commenters Or Anonymous Persons And They Do Not Represent The Opinion Of

Pictures and culled stories posted on this site are given credit and if a story is yours but credited to the wrong source,Please contact and corrections will be made..

If you have a complaint or a story,Please Contact Via
Mobile Phone +4915210724141