Recently, the new cohort of Chevening Scholars were given the good news that they have been selected for a scholarship to study in the UK in 2020/2021.

But, what goes on behind the scenes from that point on? Simply put, Placement.

Placement is the period between applicants receiving their Conditional Award Letters to the moment they begin their studies in the UK. For scholars and Programme Officers alike, Placement is a busy and exciting time of year in the Chevening calendar.

In a quiet moment following the 16 July deadline for selected applicants to return their documents, we caught up with Programme Officers Dan Upton and Lydia Wood, to experience a day in their lives during Placement.

Hi Lydia and Dan! Firstly, how long have you been at the Chevening Secretariat?

L: Hi! Nearly three years!

D: Hi! Four months.

Which universities do you look after?

L: The east of Scotland, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

D: SOAS, London Met, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Bradford, Queen’s, Ulster, Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Teesside, Northumbria, Loughborough, and Loughborough London.

What has been your favourite memory of working at Chevening?

L: When a scholar got a slug stuck in her hair at a volunteering event in the garden. She was so calm – I would not have been that chilled out about it.

D: Most of my time at Chevening has been during lockdown, but the virtual Chevening Conference this year was a great event. We had nearly 1000 scholars sign up over two days to engage with scholar presentations and ideas.

If you were applying for a Chevening Award, where would you choose to study? 

L: Dundee because it’s a nice, small, and friendly city. I would study something environment related.

D: Tough one, I think I’d either study something history related at Durham or the Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice course at SOAS. Sorry, I’m biased towards my universities!

What does the start of Placement mean to you?

L: Excited people around the world who have received an email confirming they have been selected, and a fun, busy few weeks ahead for me and the team.

D: The start of Placement was an opportunity for me to introduce myself to my first cohort of scholars which has been very exciting. More importantly though, it was fantastic to be able to give good news to so many different people.

How many scholars are you currently speaking to?

L: The new cohort and the current cohort – so roughly 230-250.

D: Overall, similar to Lydia, but specifically this morning I’m working on cases with about 10 different scholars.

Image definitely not the UK. Sorry.

What are your Placement routine essentials?

L: Google-image searching the different countries that my new scholars come from and becoming very jealous.

D: Raspberry jam on crumpets and a litre of coffee. Over the past weeks there’s been cricket on the radio which has been welcome.

What are some of the common pitfalls for scholars that you’ve witnessed at this stage of their application process?

L: Read, read, and read again. Your Conditional Award Letter contains a lot of information but it’s also very comprehensive, so by reading through it thoroughly you’ll make sure you aren’t missing any key information. Also, leaving your English language test until the last minute! Your university may need to verify your English language capacity in order to sponsor your visa, and since the certificates are generally valid for two years, it’s definitely worth booking your test early to avoid disappointment.

D: Make sure your first course preference is still running. I know the applications happen early but email the admissions office to find out to avoid disappointment. Also make sure you know enough about the local area and university. Britain is very diverse and every town/city is different, so try and find a place which you will be happy in.

What has been the most heart-warming message you’ve received from a conditionally selected applicant thus far?

L: ‘You are the best PO, I will recommend you to others’ – although scholars are assigned a PO based on their university selection, it’s always nice to read that I come highly recommended!

D: For most scholars, the Chevening Scholarship represents an opportunity to change their lives, I love hearing from scholars what a difference achieving their goals would make to their family. One scholar received their university unconditional offer on the day of the deadline so it was really motivating to help them get past the finish line and be appreciated for it.

What should scholars most be looking forward to in the UK after they’ve received their Final Award Letter (COVID-19 permitting)?

L: Having the opportunity to make lots of new friends, meet lots of new people, and look at things from a different perspective. Going to university is a great opportunity to meet so many people and Chevening adds to that experience. At events you can be in a room where no one is from the same country!

D: One thing I love about the UK is the number of museums and galleries around the country which are worth seeing, especially in London. The UK is a relatively small place so you’ll be able to take in a lot of it if you wish to. It goes without saying that the number of options you’ll have to watch live sport is also excellent.

Thank you to Dan and Lydia for taking time out of their busy Placement schedules to answer some of our questions. To all conditionally selected applicants, we wish you all the best during your Placement period.

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