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Alumni of the Month August 2008
Henry Nkemka (1986 French and Economics)
1. How did you get to where you are now?
Through hard work, determination and plenty of good fortune. I was born in Cameroon where I did my primary, secondary and high school education. I was fortunate to obtain a scholarship to study in England at Keele University 1982-1986. I was granted further opportunity to study translation in Canada at Université de Montréal where I graduated with an MA in translation in 1989. As was expected, I returned to Cameroon to work as a translator for the Cameroonian government in 1990. I worked at the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon for almost eight months without ever being paid a dime. In order not to lose my dignity, I had to soldier on. Unfortunately, there was too much political and economic changes and challenges taking place in Cameroon at that moment in time and I thus decided to return and pursue a doctoral degree in linguistics at the Université de Montréal. For five years, 1992-1997, I was basically living from hand-to-mouth, performing three part-time jobs while attending university classes. This was possible because of the North American system of studies that are based on credits. In 1998, I finally decided to pursue my boyhood dream – joining the army, in this case, the Canadian Forces, as an infantry officer.
2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Well, so far, my biggest achievement is being appointed a Detachment Commander in the Canadian Forces.
3. And your biggest mistake?
Frankly, I cannot think of any at this moment in time. However, I am cognizant of my shortcomings and the interminable line of detractors. Nevertheless, my focus in life has always been based on “forward thinking”, to soldier on and not to dwell in the past.
4. What are your ambitions now?
My hope is to one day, in some shape or form, give back something to my birth country. Make no mistake, I love my adopted country Canada. However, I am of the opinion that, were it not of the endemic political imbroglios that seem to be the trade mark of most African states, I would most certainly not have emigrated to North America. Upon retirement from the CF, I intend to go and teach in Cameroon.
5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Go for it, so long as it remains an integral part of your dream.
6. What made you choose Keele University?
The government of Cameroon accorded me a scholarship and specifically chose Keele University most probably because Keele was one of the very few universities that was offering a combined honours degree in French and another main discipline.
7. How has Keele influenced your life?
Keele University is a very well rounded and sound academic institution. I was fortunate to have done the Foundation Year whereby I was exposed to the challenges and intrigues of multifarious topics and disciplines. I can earnestly say that what I am today, academically can only be ascribed to my mentoring at Keele and to that end, I shall always be grateful.
8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?
The openness and warmness of the student body – the collective aggregate of that warmness was evident at the student union. I do miss the steak and kidney pie too…seriously.
9. And your worst?
The first six months were very lonely which is only natural.
10. Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to say “shalom” to Fishman family. The late Professor Les Fishman was both a father and a mentor to those Cameroonians who were fortunate to have studied economics at Keele. I was reminiscing about him a couple of weeks ago only to read in your July edition of his eternal rest. Strange also to learn that he was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.
True though, once a Keelite, always a Keelite.