After war, poverty, Ebola and Covid – a Master’s degree for George

University Fund 4 min. Melinde Bussemaker

George Y. Sharpe (35) was awarded his Master’s degree in Business Communication and Digital Media on 12 March 2022. War, poverty, Ebola, Covid: nothing could stop him from reaching his goal. He attributes his success to his own tremendous effort and perseverance, and to the support of the Tilburg University Fund Foundation. “I will always be thankful for the opportunity that was given to me. The possibility of taking a Master’s at Tilburg University has set so many things in motion. It has helped me grow as a person but it also helps create opportunities for my family and friends in Liberia so that they can develop too.”


That gave us the extra income to pay  my school fees

George Y. Sharpe


“In Liberia we all live together and share with each other,” George explains. “Now that I have a Master’s degree, it will hopefully be possible for me to find a good job, which means that I can help support my family in Liberia. I am now the ‘educated man’ in the neighborhood.” It’s been a long road for George, who is the youngest of eight children. His family fled Liberia for Ivory Coast during the civil war. One brother and one sister had finished high school before war broke out, but the others weren’t able to. In order to make ends meet, they had to find work. The family came back to Liberia after the war and tried to rebuild their lives, despite a struggle with poverty.

“When my father passed away, many people thought that I would never finish high school. But I did, thanks to my mother’s support and friends. We went out together to chop wood and I made charcoal, which many people use as cooking fuel due to the lack of electricity; I also grew vegetables such as okra and peppers. We then sold these things in town. That gave us the extra income to pay  my school fees.”

Bachelor’s degree in Liberia

After graduating from high school, George had to go to work to save the money he needed to continue his studies. “I really wanted to do a Bachelor’s in Communication at the University of Liberia. It took me five years and a series of part-time jobs to save enough money. I started the degree in 2013, partially thanks to the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL), because my savings were not enough to cover my tuition, accommodation and living expenses. In 2014, the university closed for a year due to an outbreak of Ebola. But the TDEL scholarship fund continued to support me and I graduated in 2019. I was proud of what I had achieved, but I wanted more: a Master’s in Communication. Only there is no such program in Liberia, so I had to find one outside the country. And I needed a scholarship, because I knew I could never pay for a course like that myself.”

I really admire the way Tilburg University delivers on its commitment to professionalism and ethics

Living in a dream

“When I first read the email that I had been accepted at Tilburg University, I could hardly believe my eyes,” George recounts. “I went to Ghana to pick up my visa and it was only when I actually had it that I called my mother to tell her the news. Until that time it was like living in a dream.” In September 2020, George started the pre-Master’s. “I started three weeks late, and because of the poor internet connections in Liberia, I had already missed quite a bit. Even though I tried my best, I was unable to complete one assignment, which meant I didn’t finish one course. That was a big disappointment. It spelled the end of my adventure and meant that I would have to return to Liberia. One of my lecturers sent me to the Communication and Information Sciences (CIS) Study Advisor, who advised me to write a letter to the Examination Board. Luckily, they decided that I could submit a new assignment. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I passed that one! It was also good that the lecturer asked two other lecturers to assess the assignment too, to prevent any bias in marking. I really admire the way Tilburg University delivers on its commitment to professionalism and ethics.”

Family pride

In February 2021 George started his Master’s program, and in January 2022 he graduated. “My family is proud of my success and so am I. The day I received the news, my telephone didn’t stop ringing. Everyone called to congratulate me and tell me how happy they were for me. I’m now looking for a job in internal or external communication, in the field of sustainability. I want to stay in the Netherlands because I know that my career opportunities are much better here. Besides, I feel at home here. I felt welcome from the very beginning. When, after a long intercontinental flight, I landed in Brussels, my expectations were riding high but I also felt a little lost. I was given a train ticket to Amsterdam. I was already on my way before the conductor discovered that I actually had to go to Tilburg. He explained where and how I had to change trains, and wrote out a note for me so that I could travel for free. It made me feel so welcome. I still have that note.”


It’s a dream come true


“Thanks to the fund, I’ve been able to stay on here and even send my mother some money now and then. When I get a job here, that will be even easier. Then I’ll also be able to save to go back to Liberia at some point. I haven’t seen my family and friends since I left in September 2020. A ticket is too expensive at the moment; I’d rather give that money to my mother so she can buy food. But as soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back for every vacation! I’m so grateful for my time here and the opportunities that I’ve had. I successfully completed my Master’s degree thanks to my professors and supervisors, and the University Fund.”

Learn more about George's story

Date of publication: 12 May 2022