I have always known l wanted to study in the UK because of its highly ranked education. My mentor and former professor, Dr I.S. Malila had done a splendid job of marketing the UK’s education as he had attained both his Masters and PhD from the UK. This got my attention as an undergraduate student admiring his professor. He became my mentor and l was even more certain about my desire to do my Masters in the UK in the coming years. I wasn’t sure of the possibility. All l had was a dream and a goal to attain that dream!
I learnt about the prestigious Chevening scholarship in 2016 from a colleague l had met at a conference. My Chevening journey started that same year, and when l reflect back at that time l am glad l did not make it then. l wasn’t ready for it, psychologically, academically and professionally. I had not done the work to truly deserve the scholarship. I am confident now that l wouldn’t have taken advantage of the scholarship as l will now.
In 2016 one of my networks, Prince, made it for the Chevening interviews. For the record, we have never met in person but have gone to do tremendous work for our various communities. l dedicated a week to call and prepare with him for his interview. Guess what?? He made it!!! I celebrated as though l was the recipient. I was excited for him as l knew the impact the scholarship would have on him and his organisation. It is then that l realised this wasn’t a race, but a journey. A journey would continue on until l made it.
Fast forward to 2017. Prince was the first to tell me to apply when the application cycle opened. That year, l had just joined ActionAid Uganda as their Gender Response and Public Service Advisor, an experience that would later strengthen my application. I was juggling work and the application process and again that year l didn’t make it. That year, Chevening scholars did a lot to help me with the essays. I was getting help from Jemina Nkosi, a chevener who made it through in 2016. I exited the race on the eligibility stage because l omitted a ‘0’ and wrote ‘4’ instead of 40 on working hours. What a bummer! But again l offered my services to help those that had made it through with their interviews. Guess what? 13 of the 30 I assisted made it through!!!! I was disappointed in myself and hurt as l truly wanted that scholarship. An error had become my downfall and was slowly ripping my dreams apart.
That same year l received a scholarship to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Development leadership in Canada from one of the best Development Institutes in the world. l still wanted to be a Chevener and I was determined to go again and when the next cycle opened l was there and ready for it. However this time l was in Canada and learning what would build my career and strengthen my application. My time in Canada studying development work would soon cement my passion and shift into development work from criminology, and this was crucial for my application. While in Canada I met a Chevening Scholar Ronaldine Taku who challenged me even further and dedicated time to assist me with the process.
A friend, Bacos, who l had met during my undergraduate studies in Botswana, asked me for help and l took him through the process. I wasn’t a scholar yet, but he believed in the knowledge l was sharing with him. One month into the application he called to say he wasn’t going do it. He felt he didn’t meet the criteria. He didn’t believe he could make it. I was shocked!! My reaction was “Whaaaat, young man are you listening to yourself, you do meet the criteria, Chevening considers all work you’ve done, including volunteer work. l know you have the 2 years work experience, l believe in you, let’s do this!”
That was a life changing moment for him, I convinced him to not give up and made sure he sent in that application because we were going to Old Trafford. That line there “ Tsala (friend) we are going to Old Trafford” kept us going, it was our inspiration line. Now we were two in this journey and determined to walk together to the finish line. We pulled through the best essays we had ever written!! And guess what? we both made it to the next stage, a total of 5 stages that we had to complete and compete in. Chevening is very competitive and I was happy l had managed to convince Tsala to stay on the race and we had made it this far.
The whole Chevening process is gruesome and is characterized by a lot of waiting. The 5-staged application takes you through sleep deprivation, depression and constant checking of emails. The process itself lasts for a whole year and through it, l learnt patience perseverance and determination. Fast forward, we made it to the interview stage with my friend who didn’t believe in himself. l reminded him of how he had failed to believe in himself and almost missed an opportunity of a lifetime. If you don’t apply they can never assess you and all it requires is a leap of faith in doing the first thing, applying!!
We had advanced to the next stage and we prepared for interviews. I called a colleague in the development sector Beatrice from Zimbabwe who was now a chevener and together they gave me tips on how to ace the interview. Those past Cheveners called to prepare with me. Not everyone responded positively, some ignored my call for help and yet still l soldiered on. My family suffered because everyday was interview day. I wasn’t going to fail an interview because l had failed to prepare for it. I practised until l was content with myself, l spoke to myself l, read interview tips and prepared for it like my life depended on it, because in all honesty it did.
In the continued wait, 4 months later we got the most awaited email.
“ We are delighted to inform you that the selection panel was very impressed with your application and interview, and have conditionally selected you for a 2019/2020 Chevening Award. Chevening Awards are prestigious and highly competitive, so congratulations on reaching this stage!”
Yes, with my friend who didn’t want to send in that application because he felt he wasn’t good enough. Together we had soldiered on and attained the ultimate goal, and we kept reminding each other we had to go to Old Trafford! That simple line, kept us on the race regardless of the pressures we faced. July 2019, we received the much awaited envelope with a letter from the High Commission on behalf of her Majesty the Queen. We had met all conditions and we were going to pursue our chosen Masters degrees at our university of choice!!
It took me 3 good years to get the scholarship. I could have given up on the first fail but l sailed through. I researched, l prepared, l consulted and planned ahead for each cycle. I am ready now more than l ever was two years ago and l believe l deserve it now than back then. It took Bacos one attempt, and it took me three attempts. In short, the destination might be the same but the journey there isn’t. Never ever compare yourself with someone else, stay on your course and you shall be amazed. Sometimes all you have to do is let someone else believe in you and send in that application. We fail, not because we are not good enough, but because we are scared to take the first step, you will never know until you give it a try!!
This is my story and this is my journey to becoming. Now l am part of a network that has produced, Ministers, Presidents, CEOs, you name it!! Individuals such as the Youngest MP of Botswana Hon Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, the current Minister or Energy in Zimbabwe Mr Fortune Chasi and the President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the list is endless. They are all Chevening alumni and l am now part of the network. I am on my road to greatness, and l want to continue inspiring greatness.
Dream| Believe | Achieve. These three words kept me going. I dreamt of studying in the UK, l believed it was possible and worked towards it and finally achieved it as I’m heading to the University of Bristol in September.
Special thanks to those that helped me through the process Chevening Alumni Jemina Nkosi, Prince Olanrewaju, Ronaldine Taku and Beatrice Savadye. My family and friends. Thank you Bacos for not giving up and for always being there, you kept me going in ways you can never imagine.
P.S the next Chevening cycle has opened , l dedicate my time to mentor 20 aspiring cheveners through the process and I will do this for the next 5 years!! ✊🏾
#IamChevening #UniversityofBristol #Chevener #CheveningJourney ##MScInternationalDevelopment
Dream | Believe | Achieve