September 26, 2019
"When I look at our healthcare system, I sometimes get really angry," says Margaret Nandudu. The AIDS-virus is widespread in Uganda, the infant mortality rate is high and access to clean drinking water is limited. "You can do so much better," says the 21-year-old, who is studying Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Jacobs University. And that's exactly what she aims for: to do better, to help her country. "One day, I'd like to become Minister of Health.”
It was a long way from the SOS Children's Village in Kakiri, 30 kilometres from the capital Kampala, to the campus of Jacobs University in Bremen. She grew up in the community of the children's village, she was four years old when her mother gave her into the projects’ care and she does not know her father. She still considers the Children's Village her home when she is in Uganda. At the age of 15, Margaret moved to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner College in Ghana, an international school that trains students from all over Africa, America, Europe and Asia, including the best students from the continent's SOS Children's Villages.
"Leaving my village with all the children and moving to college was a big challenge," Margaret says. She took the chance as well as her next step, moving to Jacobs University. "Even as a small child, I was fascinated by what drugs can do. However, I didn't want to become a doctor, but was looking for a course of study that dealt with the interaction between drugs and the body." She came across the Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology course, which focuses exactly on this complex subject.
She started her path at Jacobs University in late summer 2017. It was the first time she left Africa. She didn't know much about Germany, the country hardly appears in the news in Africa. What struck her as a big difference? Quite clearly: time management! "I come from a culture in which time is not as important. At first I came too late to lectures, missed appointments. But in the meantime, I have learned," she says laughing. She also learned to be more open, to approach people actively. "In the beginning I had a hard time to integrate," Margaret says. "But it’s important to leave your comfort zone once in a while." She is now a member of several student clubs: she plays basketball and is an active member of Amnesty International and the Christian Fellowship Club.
And, of course, she spends a lot of time in the lab. Not only to learn, but also to support others. As Teaching Assistant to Dr. Klaudia Brix, Professor of Cell Biology, she helps freshmen. Margaret was recently in Uganda for the first time in two years to finally see her mother again and the children from the village as well as to eat Matoke, Uganda's national food, prepared from steamed green plantains, which she has missed for a long time.
It was just a short stay, she traveled on to Italy for a several months-long internship. After completing the internship she returned to Jacobs University. In the upcoming year, the final exams for her Bachelor's degree are scheduled. "If all goes well, I'll do my master's in pharmacy, probably in Munich or Berlin," says Margaret. She appreciates Germany: "There are so many possibilities here". Nevertheless, she wants to return to Uganda when her studies are finished: "That's for sure, I want to help my country".
Margaret Nandudu's path has only just begun.
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces