University of Southampton...On $10 a Week

The cold, damp fall English weather and short winter nights were a stark change from the sunny, warm and highly social life he was used to in Uganda.  A sense of anxiety and depression soon set in amongst those at the camp.  What was going to be their fate? How would they get back on their feet, feed their families and care for their elderly?  For Milton it was different.  Not knowing the whereabouts or the well-being of his family still back in Uganda was disturbing.  “I knew that worrying unnecessarily was not a good thing.  I had to focus on the road ahead and the various opportunities a new life in the UK might offer,” he recalls.

Older brother Clifton was already in the UK, studying for his Masters in Industrial Engineering at Cranfield Institute of Technology.  And another brother had co-incidentally been sent on a Radio Engineering training course with the BBC.  This gave Milton some comfort, however distances and costs of travel didn’t make it much easier to keep in touch.  Both came to visit him once during the four weeks Milton was at camp. His first thought was to go out and get a job as soon as possible. However, his brother Clifton strongly encouraged him to continue the education he started in Uganda.

“At the time of the deportation I had just completed the first of a four-year engineering degree program at Makerere University in Kampala.  With the help of social workers at the resettlement camp, I was told that the UK government had diverted funds destined for Uganda to help resettle the Ugandan refugees.  Part of the assistance included providing grants for university students.  So I applied and got accepted into the University of Southampton, where I studied Civil Engineering,” recalled Milton fondly.

Milton enjoyed his newly found freedom, maybe too much. He remembers being a bit brash at first, but eventually settled down.  “Like many students, I nearly failed in my first year. In fact my supervisor, Professor Rydzewski, made the comment that ‘I would never make it in engineering’. I always remember that remark because another professor would make a similar remark many years later!  And to some degree there was some truth in their message – except they forgot to mention that I will be a lot happier!” 

“By my graduating year, however, I pulled up my socks and completed my bachelors program near the top of my class. During those years there was little spare money and at one point, I lived on $10 per week. While breakfast and dinner were provided by the residence at school during term, I had to live on my allowance for all meals during the Christmas break.  During the three-week Christmas break, my meals consisted of canned hotdogs, soup mixes and eggs, in all different styles for the same $10 per week – it was hard especially as most returned home for Christmas to be with their families.  Not to mention the minimal warm clothing I had to contend with.

“It would have to rank as one of the significant low points in my life.  There were others to follow – one not too long after my arrival in Canada!” notes Milton.

Despite the tough times, another trip across the ocean was in Milton’s future. Read about his travels in the next installment by clicking the link below.