As you can see, I am happy!

I have travelled 7000 km to pursue a masters education that will liberate me of my troubles.

Peter Makolo from Tanzania. Masters in Electrical Power Engineering at Chalmers and SI scholarship holder from the Swedish Institute (SI).

I think some perspective is necessary!

From a small village in Shinyanga, Tanzania, I have travelled 7000 km to pursue a masters education that will liberate me of my troubles. I am Peter Makolo and I have found my place at Chalmers in Sweden!

I am the son of a single mother who is a primary school teacher. I am the first born of my family and I am also the first to receive a university education. For those who do not understand why I say this, I must explain that, where I come from, it is a novelty to see a car there, electricity is a luxury, owning a computer with internet access is very rare and a student clearing primary school to become eligible for high school has the odds of being next to nil.

Now that I have put myself and my story in perspective, I would like to say that I am glad that despite all the things that could have gone wrong in my life, the light of prayer and fruits of hard work have helped me to where I am today.

In 2008, I graduated from the University of Dar-es-Salaam with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. I was one of the two students from my village and one of very few who have managed to do that from all of Tanzania. Back then, as it is now, it was difficult to find a job, so I had to accept a very low wage job at the sugar factory. A few months later, I found a job fitting my education at TANESCO, the Tanzanian electricity company.

Difficult decisions, trials and tribulations

My 8 months at TANESCO came to an end when my company director strongly advised to take up an academic career and that it was best to put my mind to use in the research environment that only a university can offer. So I went back to the University of Dar-es-Salaam. It was not an easy decision to take as it meant that I was giving up a very well-paying job for one of the lowest positions in the academic world – Tutorial Assistant and that the new job wouldn’t pay me nearly as much as the job at TANESCO. With God in my prayers and faith in my hard work, I moved to the university which gave me access to the outside world via the internet.

I used this opportunity to learn as much as I could. I learnt about foreign universities and the work they were doing. I started seeing possibilities that I would otherwise have not known about. I realised that I wanted to learn more and that a masters degree abroad was definitely a good way forward and the only way forward for me. In 2010, I began applying to every country I could think of – the US, Canada, Norway, Belgium, China; the list was long and endless and so were my aspirations. Unfortunately, the answers from the universities were always short and courteous, starting with “We regret….”. Although this was very disheartening, my wife’s supporting me, my prayers kept me going. I was praying harder now than ever before.

Chalmers! It felt like the programme was tailored to enable me!

A friend of mine who was studying in Switzerland, then suggested Sweden and Chalmers to me. She pointed me to the Next Stop Chalmers page where I saw the image of the big Chalmers sign with students walking under it. For some reason, I was taken in by that image. It inspired me. It made me want to be one of those students and I began thinking about how it would feel to be there. These are my first impressions and memories of Chalmers. I had not seen anything about the programme or the university, just the image and I was already hooked.

Then I started looking at the power engineering programme. I liked the way it looked. I liked the fact that the programme was designed to ensure that if I did not have a job in Sweden at the end of my studies, I could definitely come back to TANESCO. Like it had been tailored to enable me! I applied in 2011 for the SI Scholarship and the Masters Programme in Electric Power Engineering at Chalmers and again just as it has been in my life all along, my prayers and hard work paid off. I was accepted at Chalmers and awarded the SI Scholarship without which I wouldn’t have managed to come to this wonderful place.

Cold Sweden? Nope! Warm and nice!

Before I came here, people told me that it will be extremely cold. My professor who had once studied at another Swedish university advised me to be prepared before I go and so on. So I packed a lot of heavy warm coats and ensured that I had think and heavy boots. And then when I arrived here, it was in August and I remember wearing 2 of my heavy coats and finding that I was sweating like I had never done before. It was so funny to think then, back to those people and their advice. I began carrying one coat with me just in case but the weather was not so cold that I ever needed to use it. Swedish summers are really pleasant, I enjoy them.

Ah! But winter was around the corner and I was excited. I had never seen snow and I wanted to know what it was; how it felt; what does it look like…. One night in November or early December, my corridor mate, called out to me to say it’s snowing outside and that was my first sight of snow. It was such an exciting time for me. I was so happy.

I felt equal to the “geniuses”!

Since I am from such humble beginnings, I have always felt scared when taking the next step. Whether it was education at the seminary in Tanzania, the university there or my masters here; it didn’t matter. I have always been in awe of the next step. So when I was coming to Chalmers, my thoughts always hovered around the internationals I had never met. I used to think that the Europeans were so advanced and lived such wonderful lives because they were all geniuses and that they all thought very deeply about everything. Coming here then made me feel proud in a way, feeling that I am among them as well. I am one of the people even at this level. I felt equal to the “geniuses”! It was a very strong feeling and it fuels me every day.

It took me some time to dare to speak with them. I am shy. But I broke my barriers and then when I spoke with them, I saw that they were just normal people. Normal people like me! Then you start seeing that it’s not just you, but they ask stupid questions too. They make mistakes as well. They are scared inside, just like you. After the first exam, I was at ease. I started seeing that people aren’t very different. We are almost the same!

When they say “full-time studies”, they really mean it!

I love my programme. I’m not used to going out to parties and so on and that basically left me with a lot of time to study. I worked very hard and I can tell you that when they say “full-time studies”, they really mean it! It’s just great. Stefan works a lot and Massimo is the best teacher ever. I got a lot of things that I did not even expect. The programme is very tight, very relevant and very genuine. At the end of the programme you become a super student for sure. Of course it is difficult, but it prepares you for the world!

Chalmers makes you an employable engineer!

I would recommend Chalmers as an educational destination for anyone around the world. It’s a very good university with a very nice environment where the teachers are nice, and the labs are well equipped and placed inside beautiful buildings.

As you can see, I am happy!

Charm shows you what kind of people the industry needs and Chalmers makes you a marketable engineer; an employable engineer. It’s the perfect combination!

With God’s grace, I recently completed my final master thesis at ABB with flying colours. Since my family could no longer stay separated from me and needed me back in my sweet home country, I am now working at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. I am back home and it feels right. However many governmental organizations are interested in me, they want to "steal" me from the university. All this is because of the education that Chalmers gave me. I have really achieved something very important in my life and my dreams are coming true!

Peter Makolo - My Bio:

  • MSc in Electric Power Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg (September 2011 – June 2013)
  • B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering, University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (August 2004 - May 2008)
  • Feel free to contact me by email -

Text: Abhilash Ram
Photo: Abhilash Ram

Related links

Master's Programme in Elecric Power Engineering
Department of Energy and Environment
SI Scholarships
Charm - A committee of the Student Union which enables contact between students and companies.

Published: Tue 19 Nov 2013. Modified: Mon 25 Jan 2016