“I usually stay at my laboratory till late night in weekdays,” Utui said. “But recently I have been staying here late during the weekends too.” Apart from her daily studies, she also has an employment exam in Samsung Electronics coming up.
Utui came to Korea in 2006 being the first international student from Mozambique to study in Korea. She was also the youngest beneficiary of the Ewha Global Partnership Program (EGPP), which provides full scholarships to help students from developing countries develop their academic and leadership skills over four years.
Like typical international students in Ewha, Utui finds her days in Korea mostly enjoyable; chilling time in a noreabang (Korean karaoke) and savoring Korean cuisines except naengmyun (Korean cold noodle) are part of her “Korean moments,” but she faces difficulties at times. The most noticeable feature of Utui from others is that her arms bent inside ever since she was born.
“This disability caused curiosity among other kids when I was young,” Utui said. “But they did not really cause discrimination against me.”
Utui’s disability could not stop her passion for studying; she was interested in architecture when she was a little girl. What attracted Utui the most to the architecture was the fact that her home country, Mozambique, lacked in the technological development and engineering which make daily lives more comfortable. Utui’s interest and thoughts led her to major in architectural engineering in the College of Engineering when she met a missionary who visited her home in 2005. The missionary introduced Ewha and EGPP which made her to come to Korea and challenge herself despite many concerns.
When Utui arrived in Korea in 2006, an Ewha graduate read a story about Utui on the newspaper and contacted Utui to support her extra living expenses.
“Since she was sponsoring kids in Mozambique, she told me that she wanted to help me as well,” Utui said. “Although I was receiving enough scholarship, her support made a big difference and enabled me to focus more on studies.”
Studying in Korea was not easy for her from the beginning; but by studying hard and undergoing numerous tasks and trials, Utui is getting closer to her dream day by day. She was awarded for her research paper on “Retrofitting of reinforced concrete beams with hybrid FRP” at the conference of Korean Society for Advanced Composite Structures (KOSACS) on Feb. 23.
“It was my first paper to work and prepare mostly on my own, so I was totally lost and did not know what to do at first,” Utui said. “And I even lost the script on the presentation day. So I was shaking and doing my presentation in quite a stupid way, but thanks to my professor’s and coworker’s harsh criticism, I was able to be awarded.”
Utui’s future dream is to go back to Mozambique and build the highest building there. Her first step toward that goal is to complete graduate school successfully. For the next step, Utui plans to apply for architectural and engineering companies in Korea and sharpen her skills. After done with building up work experiences, Utui will make connections with people and institutions who are interested in supporting developing countries like Mozambique through civil engineering, health and education.
“As all my higher education is from a women’s university, I may have, even without realizing, changed my ways of thinking and acting in a independent way. So I hopefully wish to share those thoughts and actions to other Mozambicans, such that women are respected as engineers.”