Noussayma Njeim – who is concurrently studying for a Masters in Rural Development at the Universities of UGent in Belgium and Humboldt University in Berlin, as well as a Masters in Agricultural Economics at the University of Arkansas in the USA – has found a home away from home in Swaziland.

Noussayma, who was given the name ‘Nosipho’ during her stay in Swaziland, was indeed a gift to the staff of the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) during her six-week internship at the Centre. She immediately blended in and fast became a member of the SEPARC ‘family’ in no time, and a bonafide ‘Lebanese-Swazi’ who even took her time to learn the indigenous language.

“During my career and educational life I have been moving around the Middle East, Europe, and the USA. Swaziland was my first stop in Africa. I have to admit I did not know what to expect. Now that I am leaving, I am recalling all the great memories that Swaziland gave me, and wishing I could stay here. I don’t know where to start describing my journey!!” she said prior to her departure.

Noussayma noted that SEPARC was the reason she came to Swaziland, as a graduate intern to work on research about the ‘Economic Impact of Infrastructure Investment in Swaziland: The Case of Smallholder Sugar Cane Growers in the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) Area’ as part of her Master’s thesis.

“Working at SEPARC helped me grow intellectually in many ways; first is the research process, whereby I had a chance to present my work and see other research presented, followed by comments and questions to broaden the limit of the thinking scope. Second, is the way that research is conducted at SEPARC, such as working as a team and allowing ideas to be circulated and discussed no matter how big or small the idea, hence allowing each individual to partake and develop one’s self.

“By encouraging the whole team to participate strengthens the bond between the team where everyone feels that they play an important role! This helped me share my experiences and learn new perspectives and ways of solving different issues. At SEPARC I felt as part of a family member rather than an employee, we always looked out for each other and worked together to achieve the best output possible.

“As a researcher with SEPARC, I had an opportunity to join a team for data collection in Siphofaneni; the field work taught me a lot about life, most importantly, to be grateful for everything I have and never to take anything for granted! The efficiency and the importance of team work is also a great thing that I experienced especially since I wasn’t always able to work alone due to language barriers so I used the help of my teammates for translation.

Noussayma also took the opportunity to experience the country’s rich culture through visits to various places of interest and even donning Swaziland’s beautiful traditional attire.

“I was also lucky to experience Swaziland as a tourist. One of the best experiences was the Buganu (Marula) festival, whereby just like everyone else I put on the traditional Swazi outfit, the lihiya (sarong) and joined the crowd, I even tried the marula drink!! Hlane Nature Reserve was another stop for me; I got to see my favourite animal – ELEPHANTS!!! Along with monkeys, crocodiles, and lamas.

“Hearing that Swaziland is home for different birds I wanted to explore that myself!! I joined a birding group at the Mabuda Farm in Siteki for a birding hike! When the hike ended we were able to see and hear a total of 39 different birds! WOW! I also hiked at the oldest mine in the world at Ngwenya!! And in my last days I visited Mantenga Swazi cultural village learning about the traditional Swazi culture and I even got the opportunity to learn the Swazi dance!! The food was amazing in Swaziland! The BRAAI is now my all-time favourite food with pap and salad!!”

As a parting shot, Noussayma had this to say; “If I have a chance to come back to Swaziland I will not think twice about saying yes! Especially now that I am getting better at siSwati, so I am starting to fit in just like a Swazi. NGIYABONGA SEPARC and NGIYABONGA SWAZILAND! I will cherish the memories in my heart!”