How a scholarship for Nairobi native Pearl Nyaosi gave her a life changing Cambridge experience ending with her being awarded for ‘the most positive contribution to the Master of Finance programme’.
In May 2019 Pearl Nyaosi was standing in front of Cambridge Judge Business School, a newly minted Master of Finance (MFin) graduate and also the recipient of a special award for “The most positive contribution to the programme”.
Amongst the hugs, the photographs and getting used to the weighty feel of that graduation gown, Pearl’s father told her, “you don’t have to pay me back any amount of money ever because I can see where my money went, I can see the amazing return on the investment, I am so, so proud of you”.
Pearl concludes modestly, “It was a very emotional moment for us all. My family were there with me and could see that I had made it to a top global university, that I’d made the most of my time there, and that my future was bright”.
Pearl was working for KPMG in her native Nairobi when she first applied for the programme and was accepted within two weeks. She describes that part of the process as “very smooth and very exciting, and I was touched to know the admissions team thought that I could add value to the class.”
Then came the bump in the road. Originally destined for the MFin Class of 2016, Pearl was forced to defer her place for reasons that were “purely financial”.
Feeling “disorientated” and unsure whether going to live in a country where she knew absolutely no one to take a course that would use every penny of her savings and require a huge financial sacrifice from her family was really worth it after all, Pearl hesitated. Most of her colleagues advised her strongly against it. Too risky. Too expensive. What if her life didn’t change for the better afterwards?
Suddenly, the deadline to accept her deferred place was only two days away. Pearl sat down with her family, took a deep breath, and in what she describes as “a total leap of faith” decided to join the Class of 2017 even though she was still short of funds.
Immediately the School responded with a scholarship offer of £8,000 to cover 20 per cent of her tuition costs. Pearl burst into tears.
In that instant she knew that “this is a place I should go … the door was opening and I felt a lot of peace about the situation from then on”.
Once at Cambridge Pearl got busy making her mark, organising the School’s Cambridge Africa Business Conference and becoming the MFin alumni chair for the Cambridge Business School Club, as well as acting as Vice President for the University’s East Africa Society.
At the programme’s end she did return to Nairobi, but not to KPMG. Instead Pearl followed her heart into social impact investing, using her increased financial skills to make a difference at AHL Venture Partners.
She is also a very active ambassador for the life changing magic of the Cambridge experience, meeting prospective Kenyan applicants for the MFin and persuading them to take the leap too. “I sent one this academic year, and I’ve got one going next year,” she says proudly.
And her enthusiasm is contagious closer to home too. Having attended her CJBS graduation her competitive younger brother Bugei immediately decided to follow in her footsteps. “But of course he had to apply to Oxford!” she laughs.