I am a Chevening Fellow at the Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford (OCIS) coming all the way from a country named Pakistan in South Asia. To be a Chevening Scholar has been an extraordinary experience in many ways. Starting from entering into the competition, to the application, the interview, the final news of selection, and finally the University of Oxford – it has been an exciting, thrilling, and fascinating journey.

First day wonders and exploring Oxford

My first day at the Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford was full of wonders. Housed in a building with beautiful architecture, the new purpose-built building uniquely has an attached mosque to provide ample food for the soul. The Centre provides an excellent environment for learning and the exchange of ideas as well as a delicious lunch every working day that one can enjoy in the company of other scholars.

Dr Cheema

Since arriving in October this year, I have explored the city of Oxford in depth which has been a real joy for me. There are plenty of shops both new and old that you can explore as well as a wide variety of cuisines from all across the world which will satisfy even the most selective of eaters. For me as a Pakistani, there is hardly any reason to complain as there are a number of excellent curry outlets on the famous Cowley Road.

Despite winter approaching quickly, when needed, I am able to escape from my work to steal some sun when it’s sunny in one of the nearby university parks.

The city centre of Oxford is uniquely well kept with history all around you. Whilst walking in town, you feel like you are in a fairy tale with old buildings with big wooden doors and wide open courtyards surrounding you. If you are visiting Oxford, I strongly suggest a visit to the Centre for Islamic Studies. It is a well thought out and valuable addition to the rich architecture of the city and must be seen to be appreciated.

Traditions, helpful colleagues, and a warm welcome

One very interesting tradition in Oxford is the ‘long walk’. I usually walk from home to the Centre every day which takes around 40 minutes. At the start, I thought this was quite a long walk until I talked about it with my colleague who has been in Oxford for a long time. He said, “for Oxford standards, it’s not a long walk as many people walk this much or longer every day in this city”. Since that day, my sense of achievement of having a long walk has gone away.

For my work on my book, I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect place than OCIS. I find myself in the company of colleagues who have published many books and I get to learn handy tips from them about my own project. Pursuing research at the University of Oxford, I am afforded many opportunities to attend talks on a large number of topics organised by the different colleges across the city.

Shortly after my arrival, Chevening staff came all the way from London to meet me and two other OCIS fellows in Oxford to hand-deliver our welcome packs. From this first meeting to all follow up communications, the Fellowships team have been superb. In October, we were invited to be a part of the big Orientation event at the ExCel London.

It was a sunny day and I, with friends, took time to visit the famous Hyde Park which was a bit of a surprise as we could not find anyone making a loud speech and saying that they would be unable to say otherwise; all those making speeches were free to say whatever they wanted.

Speaker's corner

The prestige of being a Chevener

There is a lot of prestige that comes with being a Chevener and for me, this is doubly prestigious as I am both a Chevener and also based at the University of Oxford. I realised this prestige more than ever before when I visited another university in the UK to deliver a talk. I felt a sense of achievement through the acknowledgement and appreciation shown by the academics whom I met there.

Looking to the future

Time is passing fast and I am look forward to Christmas time to take time out and explore the rest of the UK. The first destination I plan to visit is Scotland – the northernmost country in the UK. Here, you can find mountains, lakes, valleys, and are able to be at one with the wilderness.

For more information about the Chevening Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) Fellowship including application dates, please visit the programme page here.

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