More about Yanna
Tell us a bit about yourself...
My name is Yanna Anne Chimwaza, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Nottingham Business School. My research focus is on the Impact of Culture on Entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan African countries. This research focus follows from my earlier work experience and modules that I took from my master’s and the interactions I have had with small business owners in Malawi where I come from.
I returned to NTU, in January 2019 for my Ph.D. and it felt just like coming home. I am clearly biased, but I think NTU is the best for business and economics-related courses. Before becoming a Ph.D. student, I completed an MSc in Finance in 2016 at NTU. This means that it was easy for me to transition from master’s to Ph.D. in the same institution. When it came to choosing my university degree, I knew I had always been interested in small business and related subjects. I started looking into my options and found that a Ph.D. in Economics with a focus on Entrepreneurship was the perfect choice for me. I am also a lucky recipient of the Vice Chancellors’ Award which partly funds my Ph.D. program.
You’re studying for a PhD which involves a lot of dedication. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a career in academia?
I had a few reasons for starting a Ph.D. First, the thought of 3 to 4 years of full-time research, and the chance to become an expert in my field, seemed like a good career option for me.
Also, I love my research area and think my research is an important contribution to developing countries including my home country, Malawi. I am fortunate to be a part of those that promote entrepreneurship in these countries, which is amazing. Most importantly, I look at Ph.D. as being a tool for my career development. The skills gained during my Ph.D. study such as data analysis, project management, market research, and consulting add value to my career.
Have you faced any setbacks on your journey to studying a PhD? How have you overcome them?
Independence is a key feature of being a postgraduate research student. You are given the chance to develop your thoughts and ideas. However, at times, researching independently can feel isolating. I have noticed that I feel more encouraged when I have attended training modules and met up with my peers. I joined a study group for Ph.D. students, where we meet occasionally for retreats, where we write together and have discussions on the challenges that we face as Ph.D. students and how we can deal with them. Being part of the study groups has been of great help to me.
Secondly, as a student, you need to ensure that you are developing your career path along with your study. This implies that sometimes you need to find part-time work too as part of your learning development. Managing time in such cases can be a challenge. But at the same time, combining work and school if viewed positively, provides an opportunity for one to develop time management skills which are crucial for a successful career.
Do you enjoy teaching students? What’s the most rewarding part?
Teaching during a Ph.D. is an excellent way to put your knowledge into practice as a doctoral candidate. I started teaching towards the end of my first year, but certainly one doesn’t have to teach anyone until they’re ready. At NTU you won’t have to worry when you want to start teaching because you are given plenty of training and support.
My decision to be part of the teaching team at NTU stems from the fact that teaching involves mentoring, coaching, motivating, and supporting. I am encouraged to see students’ grow their talents and strengths during our seminars, and then seeing how they apply those skills in the business world. Teaching is therefore an awesome responsibility that I will always be willing to accept. Above all, I do take pleasure from the fact that I can inspire students in my academic discipline.
How do you relax and have some ‘down time’ from your course?
As a Ph.D. student, you need recovery time during each week and indeed each day. I find that one of the simplest ways that kept me going over the years is walking. I do often take a short stroll at least three times a week just to relax my mind. Traveling together with my family to the UK has also been helpful for me because we occasionally go out to relax, meet other people, as well as wander around the city’s museums and galleries.
What’s Nottingham like for students?
Nottingham has nice shopping centres, beautiful parks, and a variety of restaurants that serve wonderful food. There are also many interesting clubs and societies to join. As an added benefit, Nottingham is a great city that can help you to fulfill your desire to travel if you are anything like me, because you can easily connect to other big cities like London and Birmingham. In sum, there is something for everyone.
How would you describe the support you get at NTU?
The level of support that NTU offers students is top-notch. This happens at all levels of study, from the dedicated student support team to the lecturers, and includes administrative staff even those with whom you cross paths, are on hand to offer support. As a PhD student, I have been extremely blessed to have 3 very good supervisors who have always supported me during my study, this is important to me because I believe this working relationship is integral to the success of any PhD.
Furthermore, NTU provides a friendly environment for research. Particularly, at the Business school, there is a wide spectrum of research areas to choose from which creates opportunities to collaborate. Most of all, coursework for PhD students is optional, which frees up a lot more time to focus on research.
What are the living costs as a student here?
International student life in the UK comes with a range of unique expenses. Accommodation forms a major part of one’s budget. It is advisable to look for accommodation which is close to campus so that you can save on travel as well as time.
Other important costs include the cost of basic utilities like electricity, gas, and water. When it comes to food and groceries, your budget depends on your taste and how much you can afford. You also need to save some money for adventure, but this depends on your preferences.
From your experience, how would you advise future international or PhD students?
Make the most of university services - including library, academic, and employability skills support. Make your experience richer by getting involved in the events held in the school by attending research seminars, conferences, and joining study groups. This will help build your support network and widen your perspective of not only education but life in general.
Make the most of your tutors and supervisors and find out about their different research interests. That way you get to connect with people who are into areas of research that can enhance your career prospects.
Lastly, choose an area of study that you are passionate about, that way, you will find learning at NTU to be fulfilling and rewarding
Describe NTU in 3 words...
Innovative, scholarly, and accommodating