‘My experience presenting at the Chevening Conference’: An interview with University of South Wales scholar Verlyndah Hodge

Current Chevening Scholar Verlyndah Hodge shares what it was like to present at the 2023 Chevening Conference, plus what she loves most about living and studying in Wales.

In partnership with the University of Warwick, we recently delivered our flagship academic event of the year, the Chevening Conference.

For this year’s conference, Chevening Scholars came together to share their research and ideas on the topic of ‘innovation and collaboration around the world’. Among those chosen to present was University of South Wales scholar Verlyndah Hodge.

We caught up with Verlyndah to find out what it was like to present at the conference and, more broadly, what it’s like to live and study in Wales on a Chevening Scholarship.


Why did you put yourself forward to present at the Chevening Conference?

‘I am a doula and a fervent advocate for better maternal health practices that allow mothers to play an active role in their own birth experiences.

Poor maternal outcomes disproportionately affect black and brown mothers and are often deemed preventable. Providing antenatal education, access to birth choices, and continuous support increases opportunities for optimal perinatal care.

Presenting at the Chevening Conference was an opportunity to intercept the ideas that mothers should fear birth and maternal care exclusively equates to medical care.

I believe health policies should encourage partnerships with doulas because we provide one-to-one support, focusing on a mother’s emotional, social, and spiritual maternal experience. I am confident it would strengthen any health system’s vision to provide uncompromising support and would extend into societal prosperity.

Being able to share my research and ideas on the topic, and engage in thought-provoking conversations with fellow Chevening Scholars, was an amazing opportunity.’

What was the highlight of the conference for you?


‘A total of 23 scholars were chosen to present on issues that they are equally passionate about, and it was nothing short of phenomenal!

I love to write, but public speaking is my passion. Honestly, the nerves hit hard, but at the end of my presentation, my love for meaningful conversation was rekindled. I’m so ready to ditch the essay writing!


Meeting Alicia Herbert OBE, Director of Education, Gender, and Equality at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), was also very inspiring!’


More broadly, what is it like to be a Chevening Scholar?


‘Being part of Chevening is an accolade that is recognized globally. However, the Chevening Scholarship has also broadened my network within my own region.

I’ve always appreciated Caribbean organisations that support forward thinking and collaboration among the territories. I became familiar with some of the current Caribbean scholars through the Leeward Islands Debating Competition and district Toastmasters Clubs, so this platform feels like a major step up. I’m excited to see us use it and continue to place ourselves in positions to lead and develop our region together.’

Which university are you studying at?

‘I am currently completing my master’s degree at the University of South Wales (USW).’

What do you love most about living and studying in Wales?

‘The Welsh community has a genuine warmth. When I met the Vice Chancellor for USW, it was the first thing I told him. Wales rains a lot and it gets very cold, but the people have really made me feel at home. Just recently, I attended a neighbourhood party to celebrate the King’s coronation. It was so much fun and I even learned to introduce myself in Welsh!

At USW, my lecturers and staff have provided ample support to ensure that we understand each module both as individuals and as a collective.

I’ve come to be best friends with the 24/7 library and have always felt safe, no matter what time I choose to leave. And when I need a break from studying, there are many picturesque hiking trails that allow me to clear my mind.

My mascots during primary and secondary education were red dragons, so studying in Wales has been nostalgic! I’m proud to have chosen USW as my alma mater.’


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