"Challenges? There wasn't anything serious. Apart from the university riots, of course. Some students who weren't even protesting got dragged off and beaten by the police. And then there was the six-month cholera outbreak."
Nelly Zulu is one of our Global Scholarship students in Zambia, and at the time of writing is studying for her legal practitioner's qualification. She grew up in Rhodespark, Lusaka, with her grandmother, mother and sisters. Nelly has never met her father and so, unusually for Zambia, took her grandmother's name instead. "Not having a father figure was emotionally challenging, particularly when the other children at school were talking about their dads. But we always had books, and I pushed myself to do well."
As a child, Nelly was captivated by local lawyers' black and white outfits. Her mother worked close to the courts, and she walked past them every day to school. Years on, she is the first person in her family to have gone to university. Her mother – who lives on a farm and sells produce locally – and grandmother helped raise enough funds for her registration and first year of studies, with help from their local church.
"Our law school had notice boards," says Nelly, "but I never paid attention to them until a friend of mine said she had won a writing competition advertised there." Nelly found out about our Global Scholarships program almost by accident. "I went to talk to the registrar one day, but she had gone for lunch. So I looked at the board and saw DLA Piper's poster, and asked the university how to apply. I remember submitting my application at midnight."
"There are a lot of amazing people in the world who want to help you. You just have to find them."
The scholarship program has been transformative, says Nelly. "I've had so much exposure to different aspects of the profession and ways of working, and of course the financial support has meant my grandmother and mother didn't have to stress about that side of things."
In Zambia, says Nelly, the general perception of legal work is criminal practice. "But my internship at DLA Piper in Dubai opened my eyes to the possibilities in commercial law, particularly in intellectual property and technology."
The scholarship activities have also helped Nelly's degree studies. "I was struggling to find a suitable dissertation topic. Then we had a lecture on the relationship between tech and the law, and how in many countries regulation is reactive, not proactive. In some countries, election fraud has been linked with unregulated technology. All this inspired me to write about tech in my legal dissertation."
And what advice would Nelly give to young students in developing countries? "There are a lot of amazing people in the world who want to help you achieve your ambitions. You just have to find them."
"Conditions here aren't geared to help young people succeed," says Assane Diop Teuw, one of our Global Scholarship students in Senegal. "Your journey has to start with being the best version of yourself. If you get yourself ready, extraordinary things can happen."
Assane was born in Dakar, where he grew up with his seven brothers and sisters. Many students in Senegal go abroad after finishing high school, but Assane stayed, to support his parents. And in his first year at university, he became an entrepreneur.
"There aren't enough people creating jobs in Dakar, and no paid internships. Law school taught me how to set up a company, so I decided to put it into practice." Assane's business provides media and communications services for nonprofit organisations. "In 2016, we started work with the UN Refugee Agency. We want to solve the problem of child statelessness in Senegal and West Africa."
Without a birth registration, children in Senegal are at high risk of becoming stateless. If this happens, they can't continue their education. "In Wolof – our most widely spoken language – the name of my company means 'to fly'; I want to help young people here to take flight with their own wings. Right now, we're working on mobile and web apps to automate the registration system, and on awareness campaigns throughout the country."
"When I was accepted, I felt that my dreams were now becoming a reality."
One day at university, an administrator came to Assane's class and gave a short presentation on DLA Piper and the Global Scholarships program. "I did some research on the firm and it seemed to reflect our most important value in Senegal – teranga, which means being generous, and treating strangers like family. I felt compelled to apply. When I was accepted, I felt that my dreams were now becoming a reality."
Assane is finishing his master's degree in business law, with a thesis on how pro bono support can help reduce statelessness. "Many people of my age can see the problems in Senegal and want to make a difference. My studies and – I hope – my career as a lawyer will empower me to help my community, by helping industries – such as mining or farming – with regulation compliance and raising their standards to international levels."
"We've had some amazing opportunities as global scholars," says Assane, "learning international ways of working and meeting people from different backgrounds. These are things we wouldn't normally have access to here as law students." And the pastoral elements have also helped. "You need to be pretty tough to make it in Senegal as a young person. The programme coordinators have encouraged and motivated us to face our challenges."