Fama Jallow, phenomenal international postgraduate student tells us why she chose Stellenbosch University

In June we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day. The day was created by the Women’s Engineering Society and supported by UNESCO. The intention is to recognize women in the engineering sector and encourage more women to take up engineering. We hope that this article is just the confirmation you need to choose engineering at Stellenbosch University.


In this article we introduce you to Fama Jallow, international student and recipient of the acclaimed Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. To date the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship has been awarded to over 600 talented young leaders from 33 African countries. Beautiful, young and talented Fama tells us in this article about her reasons for choosing Stellenbosch University. She tells us about her experiences here thus far and her dreams for the future. This dynamic young woman invites anyone who shares an interest in thought-provoking discussions surrounding space, AI, entrepreneurship, or engineering, to not hesitate but reach out. She is eager to connect and engage with new acquaintances.


Fama is from the Republic of Gambia, West Africa. She is her country’s first female drone pilot. She completed her Aerospace Engineering degree in China and is fluent in Mandarin. Her academic journey did not end there. After graduating she was awarded the scholarship, which granted her the opportunity to pursue a postgraduate degree at any university in South Africa. She then sought an institution that would not only challenge her academically but also provide a well-rounded environment for personal growth.


Says Fama, “Stellenbosch University emerged as the perfect choice, encompassing a harmonious combination of academic excellence, program diversity, cultural immersion, and breathtaking natural beauty. While I received acceptance from other prestigious South African institutions, my heart was captured by the allure of Stellenbosch as a whole. It was difficult for me to envision myself thriving in any other university setting. Additionally, I simply couldn’t resist the temptation of exploring all the incredible opportunities that Stellenbosch University has in store.”


“As an international student coming from The Gambia, a small country in West Africa and considered the smallest country in mainland Africa, Stellenbosch has become a place that feels like home to me in many ways. The similarities between the intimate nature of Stellenbosch and my homeland provide me with a sense of familiarity and comfort. Furthermore, the breathtaking landscape of Stellenbosch adds an extra layer of wonder to my experience. The variety and beauty of the surroundings constantly remind me of the natural splendor I am accustomed to in The Gambia. It is as if I have found a second home that not only nurtures my academic pursuits but also connects me to my appreciation for nature.”


“In summary, my personal journey at the University of Stellenbosch has been an exciting and transformative experience. The diverse community, the sense of familiarity, and the stunning environment have all contributed to making Stellenbosch a place that truly feels like home, bringing me closer to my own identity while embracing the wonders of a new and enriching environment.”


On her research and goals for her future in engineering Fama says, “My passion lies in sustainable engineering, particularly within the realm of Aerospace Engineering. Currently, I am delving into the fascinating intersection of additive manufacturing and Green hydrogen, which allows me to explore new frontiers closely aligned with my interests. What makes this endeavor even more rewarding are the invaluable support and guidance from my supervisors, Dr. Melody Neaves and Prof. Craig McGregor. I find immense inspiration in Dr. Melody Neaves, a remarkable woman in STEM who is making significant contributions. Collaborating with her and learning from her wealth of experience creates an environment that brings out the best in me.”


“Building upon my undergraduate background in Aerospace Engineering, I am determined to instigate change in the realm of sustainability within this field. One area that particularly ignites my passion is space applications, especially in the African continent. Currently, I am actively involved in serving as the Program Coordinator of the African Space Education Program for the Space Generation Advisory Council, in collaboration with the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. In this role, I strive to democratize space education, making it more accessible to young Africans. My goal is to foster greater participation of African youth in this field and enable them to be part of the global space race.”


With the surge in space tourism, Fama holds a dream close to her heart – to venture into space herself one day. Additionally, her entrepreneurial spirit drives her to utilize her skills in problem-solving. “Throughout my engineering journey, I aspire to contribute effectively and inspire more African individuals, especially young women, to reach for the stars. By doing so, I hope to instill a sense of ambition and determination within them, empowering them to pursue their dreams,” she says.


Asked what she does during her free time, besides work, she says, “During my leisure time, I find myself engrossed in Asian series on Netflix, particularly Korean dramas. The exploration of diverse cultures and lived experiences fascinates me, and I enjoy immersing myself in them through my choice of movies. When I’m not caught up in a Korean drama, I can be found exploring various coffee shops, as I have a deep appreciation for coffee. Fortunately, Stellenbosch provides a plethora of options, allowing me to indulge in the quest for my next favorite coffee spot. The perfect leisure activity for me involves enjoying a cup of coffee while delving into a new book.”


“Spending quality time with friends is another cherished pastime of mine, whether it’s offline or through online connections. I firmly believe that having a supportive network is crucial as we navigate through life, especially in the academic realm. Having individuals who uplift and accompany you through the journey is invaluable.” says Fama.


“Furthermore, I possess an adventurous spirit and a penchant for daydreaming. Traveling to new destinations and contemplating life’s mysteries and humanity’s place in the vast universe captivate my thoughts. It is these very musings that draw me to the field of space. I consider myself a fervent conversationalist, and I thoroughly enjoy engaging in deep discussions encompassing topics such as space, AI, entrepreneurship, and engineering. If you happen to spot me on campus, please feel free to approach me. I am always thrilled to meet new people and embark on intellectually stimulating conversations or any type of conversation.”


Ending this interview feels like coming back down to earth with a thump after exploring the endless, wonderful possibilities that space, another world of engineering aspirations and inspirations, has to offer.