Persevering With Research

Though most days feel like a blur presently, it does not feel so long ago since I started my PhD study. For readers who may not know, my PhD research is on Nigerian Student Experience, and I currently explore themes of identity, belonging and performance among Nigerian students.

Now, back to my short post!

2020 was a difficult year for me, because I lost track of my work-rhythm and had to fight to find a new rhythm of productivity. I had difficulties reading, writing and understanding; I struggled to find any kind of mental clarity to process my thoughts succinctly.

In that season of struggle, I learned it was important to turn up consistently and try to push my research forward with every ounce of energy I did not have, despite the challenges I faced. I ‘did not have’ any energy because I felt incredibly drained in the process, but I made progress, with continuous effort. I have to thank my amazing family, supervisors, pastor and friends for their support, because their time, counsel and love made (and continue to make) a huge difference to my wellbeing, stability and productivity.

I am currently in my third year of study, and I wish to express how incredibly thankful I am, for the privilege I have to do what I do. I am thankful to have ideas and abilities worthy of use, and I am thankful to research on a subject I enjoy so much!

I am learning, still, to persevere and turn up persistently; I am learning to live by faith and not fear; I am learning to remain grateful and give thanks to God in all situations.

Letter to Self VI

Dear Emmanuel

It is nice to write my sixth letter to you on your birthday. It is such an interesting experience to read your thoughts and observe patterns and changes as time goes by.

I wish to congratulate you on reaching your third year of PhD study. 2020 has not been the most straightforward of years, but you have tried consistently to move forward in life.

As I read your last letter, I noticed how focused you were on keeping its content ‘professional’, by focusing primarily on your PhD and film. Though they are great feats, I would like to highlight this time around that, your thoughts have been dominated recently with the fight back in Nigeria against evil and injustice. You have been concerned about how you can make a contribution to this fight.

While you may not have all answers right now, and may feel sometimes that you are making no real contribution, you are learning to remain present in the moment, and not let it catch you idle.

Because of events you have witnessed this year, it has grown more apparent to you, that the future is always uncertain. Nevertheless, you have learned as well that uncertainty is no reason for fear. I have no idea what I would write you next year, but it is okay too that I do not know. 

God be with you always and happy 26th.

With love,


What is Faith?


Faith is a topic of interest for myself and many others. I was interested in bringing people from different cultural and religious backgrounds to discuss this. Represented in this discussion are Irish, Greek, British, Indonesian and Nigerian nationalities. And Christian, Muslim, Atheist and Agnostic beliefs.

This discussion features perspectives from David Adeola, Dionysios Deligiannis, Mabel Alkali, Farhana Lunat, Anna Hetherington, Andi Rusyaidi, Lanaire Aderemi and Emmanuel Johnson.

Please see links below to stream our download or audio discussion.




PhD Research Profile


I’m Emmanuel Johnson. I am a Cultural thinker, filmmaker, Christian and Poet. I am a 2nd year PhD student at Global Learning: Education and Attainment (GLEA). My research explores lived experiences of international students, using themes of faith, identity, belonging and performance as key focal points into this phenomenon. This shall make the basis for this written post.

It all started in Abuja, Nigeria for me, which is where I was born – on 12 November 1994. Being a PhD student at 24 years of age means I get called both young and ‘old’, depending on who I speak to. I find that very interesting!

Though I was born in Abuja, my family left the city only a few months later, as we relocated to Lagos, Nigeria. We spent a couple of years there and moved again to Uyo, Nigeria, which is also my ancestral city (where both of my parents and their great-grand parents and more hail from). In 2012, at the age of 17, I made my own relocation to Cambridge, UK, for University foundation study at EF Cambridge. I was enrolled in an international school with students from over 60 countries. A year later at 18 years of age, I started studying Media and Communications at Coventry University. Through this course, I started to learn that ‘things aren’t really as they appear to be in the world’. These experiences of sojourn, and their consequent sub-experiences, kick-started something that would later become very relevant to me, which is ‘the reality of internationalisation’.

The reality of internationalisation has become personalised to me. From my experience, this reality entails: not really having a physical/tangible sense of ‘home’ which is fixed, to hold onto; always being in a state which sees you missing someone who is physically elsewhere; being seen as ‘different’ by those of similar national and ethnic origin as you, or seeing your nation and/or ethnicity differently, because of your experience of internationalisation.

These experiences and more raise internal questions such as: where is home? Who am I becoming? And, what do my added experiences and knowledge mean for me, as I continue to navigate the society around me. My research attempts to deconstruct these questions.

Letter to Self V

Dear Emmanuel

It truly is a pleasure to write to you again. 

The last time we conversed, you were just about starting your PhD. What an incredible feat that is! It shall make the key theme and talking point of this letter.

Your first year went really well, you challenged yourself by staying dedicated to the writing of your literature review. You now have over 11 thousand words, look at you! That’s not bad at all if you ask me. You also managed to present your research to the public, on two occasions. I say well done to you. Keep going and don’t give up!

During this period, you have discovered the need for balance, and its consequent significances across all aspects of your life. It’s good to let you know that you have made improvements on this front, and you now pay closer attention to personal, emotional and social commitments around you.

I wish to congratulate you on the release your film: ‘To Grow a Tree‘. It has been interesting to learn of the importance of lived experience in everyday life, for international students, as well as other people in society. You are currently working on a new film which you hope to release in 2021. I would like to wish you the best on all stages of its production.

Well, this is it once more. Let me know how you get on, I look forward to receiving a letter from you soon.



What is Loneliness?

The experience of loneliness is often private, yet deeply relevant. In this episode, I gather 4 other individuals with interest in the subject to share their experiences and understanding of the subject. It features contributions from David Adeola, Mabel Alkali, Andi Rusyaidi and Ade Oyeyipo.

It is split into two parts, please follow links below to stream or download:

Part One:



Part Two: