Scholar in the spotlight – Ritwika Mitra

Ritwika Mitra has swapped the fast-paced world of Indian journalism in Delhi for the slightly slower pace of postgraduate study in Birmingham, moving to the UK to pursue an MA in International Relations (Gender) at the University of Birmingham.

Ritwika is keen to immerse herself in UK journalism, and develop her critical perspective on gender issues through her studies, so she can use this in her reporting when she returns to India at the end of her course. She’s already enjoying putting the world to rights in late night discussions with her fellow Birmingham-based Cheveners!

We caught up with Ritwika at Orientation back in October to ask her about herself and her life before Chevening…


Chevening: Congratulations on being selected for a Chevening Scholarship. How did you find the application process and how did you feel when you were selected to be a Chevening Scholar?

Ritwika Mitra: The Chevening application process was quite exhilarating. The questions helped me to examine my own thoughts and feelings, to find out if I was really prepared to take up an intense academic course.

I was euphoric when I received the conditional offer. But the unconditional offer letter brought relief. The months preceding the final award letter also taught me to be patient.

Chevening: Tell us about your work as a journalist in your country before you came to the UK.

RW: I primarily covered health and social welfare development beats in the national capital, Delhi. Reporting gave me a great grounding in journalism, helping me connect with the grass roots and build long-term relationships with my sources.

The journalistic experiences helped me bring anecdotes to my application on why I wanted to engage with the Chevening community. With Chevening being a leadership-focused scholarship scheme, the reporting experiences also aided me in realising my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. There were times when I faltered in carrying out my responsibilities as a team member which I mentioned in the application. I think my journalistic experiences also taught me to be transparent and write an honest application where I mapped out my failures too.

What course are you studying and why did you choose this university or course?

I am studying International Relations (Gender) at the University of Birmingham. I want to move to report on issues with a critical gender lens and I also want to bring more depth to my work. I think an intensive course which contextualises gender in the global scenario would give me a better understanding when I resume reporting in my country. However, I am aware of the challenges that I will face in connecting theory with reality in India.

Ritwika and Harry Potter

Why did you apply to leave your home country and to study in the UK with a Chevening Scholarship?

Studying in a multicultural environment was one of my primary objectives. The Chevening Scholarship would also put me in a pool with people from across different countries and professional backgrounds. I am not only drawing from the academic resources here, but also from the daily interaction with other Chevening Scholars. The discussions with this cohort of people are always stimulating and extend till late hours in the community kitchen or library café.

How are you settling into life at your university?

It has been good so far. I am beginning to get used to the volume of work on the course which I initially found difficult to cope with.

Tell us about your hobbies and interests outside of study.

I like reading fiction and going to the theatre. I hope I will have ample time to pursue both beside my study and travelling in the UK.

What are you hoping to achieve during your time in the UK?

I want to intern with a national daily newspaper in the UK. This will not only boost my professional career but give me an enriching experience of an international newsroom. I want to sharpen my ethical reporting skills by working with a newspaper here.

What do you plan to do when you return to your country after finishing your Chevening Award? How will you put to use what you’ve learned in the UK in your own country?

I want to resume reporting. Ideally, I want to engage in long-form journalism which gives me the scope to work on a story for a longer time and also helps me critically analyse the topic. As I mentioned earlier, I think there will be several challenges in applying academic discourse to the fieldwork. But I feel I will look at issues with a more mature understanding of the subject after intensive reading as part of my course.

Where will you be in 20 years’ time?

This may sound too ambitious but I would like to start a magazine which published long-form journalism, working with a great team of colleagues.