This week I join all in congratulating those that have been offered the prestigious Chevening scholarship offered by the UK government to future leaders and game changers from across the globe.
As a former Chevener myself, I thought it was important to share my experiences from the 15 months that I spent in London studying International Relations at the University of Westminster’s Regent Campus.
Once you arrive in the United Kingdom, you will realise that the tag you have as a Chevener exerts more pressure on you to perform well in class. Before you realise, your personal tutors and lecturers will have known that you are a Chevener, a future leader and game-changer in their eyes.
I felt this pressure in Professor David Chandler’s Beyond International Relations classroom, a class where we deconstructed International Relations from the state-centric perspective, challenging that there is more to politics and statecraft than power and the Machiavellian plays that make politics what it is.
To get you inside Prof. Chandler’s brain, he argues, recently in an article that humans are the disease and Covid-19 is the cure. To him, the virus is a message from nature that humanity is bringing these crises upon itself. He challenges that the human, whose resilience presupposes, a subject capable of reason and responsibility, is seen as a hubristic and problematic fiction in the face of the pandemic.
Sorry, I digressed but that’s how Prof. Chandler made us think and question things. He wanted us to think both outside the box and even sideways. Now, such a man knows that you are a Chevener and one day he tells the class: “Pi was given the prestigious Chevening award meant for future leaders.”
However, pay more attention to lessons outside the classroom while in the UK. You will learn how valuable the word “Please” is. You can be denied a service or served reluctantly if you ask for something without putting the word please at the end. Practice using the word before you fly out.
When going to catch a Tube, you will value the power of respect which we, as Africans, have grown up with. Offer your seat to pregnant mothers, the elderly and the handicap. When disembarking and heading for the escalators, keep right so that those in a rush use the left side. It is that orderly.
Make friends as much as you can so that you can learn more from other cultures. It is through friends that you will learn a lot. Be free. You will go out, with classmates, for drinks but when it comes to paying or ordering everyone will act individual. Just play along. Students don’t throw rounds.
You will hear your flatmate talking about taking a shift over a weekend or at night. Find a job as soon your grades settle and you are certain you can juggle school with work. It is while you start taking those shifts that you will also respect the value of money. Earning £10 per hour like I did at a Wetherspoon pub at London’s Leicester Square, there was no way I could spend that money aimlessly.
You will also value the value of time. If you report for work late, you will have complicated the shifts of that day, as well as automatically earned less. Always have an allowance of 40 minutes for your appointments because you have no idea when the northern or central or Picaddily lines will be off schedule.
Most importantly enjoy your time. Hammer those essays with ease. Write with pace and precision. As you write, show them that as much as they speak their language comfortably, but you can write to a higher class and comfortably than they do.
And, chances are high than you will encounter racists, but ignore them with a smile. The biggest weapon in life. Keep going, after all, there is nothing like collective guilty in life. It will not, in anyway, reflect the character of the British people.
I encountered one racist while serving drinks at Wembley Stadium in Sir Bobby Charlton restaurant. The racist did not want to be served by me. I made him uncomfortable as I employed a different tact, still insisting to serve him. I did. I won. He lost. Never give people victory on a silver platter.
So yeah, go there and bring the Merit or Distinction degree, but enjoy life and be free.
As our elders say, he who doesn’t travel thinks his mother is the best cook. Go there and explore, learn, unlearn and relearn.
One important final thing. Language is dynamic and is usually coded and decoded basing on cultural context. Men and women will address you as my love, darling, sweet, honey.
Just chill and cool down. There is nothing romantic attached to it. It is a British thing.
Pilirani Phiri is a multi-faceted seasoned journalist and PR expert. He is currently the communications director in the office of Malawi’s Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima. He is also the Vice President’s mouthpiece.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :