Chevening matters!

The round table discussion on regional connectivity had four panelists from India, China, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Before inviting the last speaker on the panel, the moderator uttered these words, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) added an innovation to the sixth RECCA (Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan) by launching an academic paper contest. There were more than twenty papers from Central and South Asia which were sent to the Hague Institute where they were reviewed by a panel of experts. We are glad that Mr Shoaib Ahmad Rahim from Afghanistan has won the contest. I hand over the floor to him.” And the huge hall echoed with applause.  

“Chevening matters!” – a phrase that flashed in my mind as Mr Wais Bermak invited me to present my paper on day one at the academic forum in RECCA-VI back in September 2015; and why not, one Chevening Alumnus was inviting the other one.  

On the second day of the conference, I presented my paper to foreign ministers from forty countries where it was well received.

In 2012, I applied for a Chevening Scholarship and had the chance of my life time to study MSc in Development at the prestigious University of Sussex. Before that, I was working as Enterprise Development Specialist for a World Bank funded programme at the Ministry of Rural Development while Mr Bermak was the minister. My Programme Director and Director of Institute for Rural Development were other prominent Chevening Alumni I knew in the ministry. Therefore, before I even applied for the scholarship, I was convinced by the phrase “Chevening matters!”      

I can say it without any exaggeration that my experience in the UK was literally a life changing one. The exposure to the multicultural environment, world class academic institutions, and the traditionally modern UK lifestyle turned the journey into an adventure.   

As an MBA graduate from one of the top five management sciences schools of Pakistan, I was expecting only a marginal addition to my knowledge and skills. But Chevening offered way more than what I had expected. The lectures, and seminars by world known academics, were rare moments of inspiration and motivation. The extensive reading and research, which sometimes felt like burden and punishment, helped me gain a deeper insight into my chosen study area. The long library hours blessed me with the patience needed to discover the secrets and passion to explore new realms of knowledge. In the same way, the writing assignments were given to master the logic, concreteness, eloquence, and clout in expression of ideas. The day to day interaction and academic discussions with brains from different corners of the world was the icing on the cake. 

Every single bit of this remarkable experience is paying off as I move along my professional career. I work as Economic Development Advisor for USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and as such I am required to work on strategies, guidelines, and policies for development of Afghan municipalities. I study relevant global practices and find ways to implement them in the context of Afghanistan.    

Today, I speak on news channels and regularly write for newspapers on national and regional political economy. Each appearance and write-up requires extensive reading and research before I express my opinions on a given topic. There is usually very short time to research and prepare for an informative and analytical piece of work. However, the extensive study experience in UK equipped me with all the skills and confidence to handle the pressure. This is why, after every good performance, the phrase echoes in my mind, “Chevening Matters!”.

It is a great privilege to be a Chevener and those who experience it can literally understand how it feels to be one. 

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