When you consider that Chevening Scholarships are for a one year’s taught master’s degree, it’s no surprise that most scholars will celebrate a birthday whilst here in the UK. Almost 12 months after they arrived in the UK, we asked scholars to share how they celebrated being a year older, and hopefully, a year wiser.

1. Furaha ya kuzaliwa

Birthdays without family can be hard but luckily, Chevening is a family too and we are everywhere!

Cynthia Kavasia, Kenya

‘When I joined the University of South Wales I was lonely and sad since I’d left my one month old marriage and a two year old son back home. I never imagined I would meet people here who would become a part of me.

I had been told prior to coming to the UK that in Wales, I would have some communication problems since the Welsh people’s accent is too strong. But, I met incredible people from different cultures and countries, and also from my country, and we all spoke one language; LOVE.

On 30 June 2019, on my birthday, all I was showered with was love and I am glad that despite my family being thousands of miles away, I had a family here that made my day incredible – the best birthday party ever.

Thank you Chevening for enabling us to meet incredible people and forming bonds that will never be broken. It has been a journey and this year was a roller coaster. #Chevenerforlife #IamChevening’

2. Selamat hari lahir

In case you were never in front of your TV to smell what the rock was cooking (spoiler alert – it was usually a smackdown), you can read more about wrestling and WrestleMania here.

Azim Kassim, Brunei

‘According to my mother, she had at least two habits when she was pregnant with me which were watching wrestling on the telly and snacking on some guavas. As I grew up, guavas turned out to be my favourite fruit and would you believe it, I became an avid wrestling fan too.

At times one’s ears would chime with “yeah, but it’s fake” and “not real, innit” from those oblivious of the physical and mental toll wrestlers endure. Unaware that pro wrestling is more than just about the layeth the smacketh down. It’s an incredible industry of crafting creative characters, delivering epic storylines with an engaging interactive audience, and I especially look forward to the “promos” which is a dialogue or monologue used by wrestlers. In my view, watching wrestling has even improved my public speaking skills.

The UK and the Republic of Ireland have a rich history of producing talented wrestlers, especially in recent years, with trailblazing female WWE superstars such as Becky Lynch and Paige whose movie “Fighting with my Family” premiered earlier this year.

I convinced my wallet that this chance may never come again and thus celebrated my birthday joining the masses to catch WWE Smackdown at the 02 Arena in Greenwich, London and witnessed the likes of Paige and Randy Orton. The best birthday present was to see Kofi Kingston, one of the ultimate underdogs who after 11 years finally won his first world title this year at WrestleMania. I wish I had better photos!’

3. Eid milad saeed

We weren’t joking when we said Chevening was a family. Scholar for a year, Chevener for life!

 Mervat Alhaffar, Syria

‘Thousands of miles from Damascus, I found a family. This is not a cliche!

It was just a normal, very busy day in London. Marjam, Antigoni, Seona, Vicki, and Lena did their best to make my birthday a lovely memorable day. Friends who I only met a year ago, made time during London’s busy life to celebrate my first birthday outside Syria! I didn’t have any expectation about the day and at the same time, I couldn’t ask for more, it was just perfect.

An Invitation for lunch in Russell square, cheerful flowers, and a very useful backpack were my gifts on 3 July. Their kindness left me speechless.

When they asked me about how I used to celebrate my birthday in Syria, it made me realise how the celebration is all about the “who” and not the “where”.

Here I am, far away from my country and my family, but thanks to this amazing year I have had another family. The high intensity course at LSHTM combined with an amazing spectrum of students meant strong bonds were created and I am so grateful for Chevening for enabling me to meet all those amazing people. 

I don’t think I am able to express how grateful I am using words so I will quote the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani who said “letters die when they are spoken”.‘

4. Feliz aniversário

Growing older is so much more fun when you are surrounded by people who make waking up each day better. And when you have Jenga – obviously.

Duarte Carvalho, Angola

‘This year I celebrated my 33rd birthday or as it would be back home, “Christ’s age”. I could not be happier for reaching and celebrating such a significant age, and another year of life while reaching the end of an amazing opportunity with Chevening in the UK. I spent this day surrounded by people who have become friends and my family over the past year; my classmates. To celebrate this day we shared moments of laughter, shared love and joy, shared food, and most of all, celebrated the gift of life.

This picture represents some of the connections I have made whilst in Aberdeen, Scotland; people that took the time to embrace me and my birthday, and that I am thankful crossed my path while a Chevener in the United Kingdom.’

5. Parabéns pra você

Fun facts; according to an internet search about the song, ‘happy birthday to you’ is the most widely recognised English language song in the world and until recently, it was copyrighted meaning any public performance of it either had to pay a copyright fee or be deemed illegal. It was only in 2016/2017 that the song entered the public domain after a court in the USA ruled the original copyright claim was invalid.

Nandy Lima, Cape Verde

‘I celebrated my birthday as I have grown accustomed to: surrounded by great friends, my favourite sweets, and lots of dancing. I had originally planned to do an Alice in Wonderland themed party, dressing up as one of the silly daffodils. I thought it would be the most appropriate birthday party theme. What better than partying immersed in your favourite British childhood story? Unfortunately, that didn’t follow through as I had a lot going on at the time. Nevertheless, what I ended up having was just as special.

At midnight, with my dearest flatmates Aida, Sara, and Navi, we gathered at the kitchen and sang a very lively happy birthday while I was blowing candles from my improvised cake. Later in the afternoon, I decorated the ceiling of my accommodation’s small common room with pink garlands from Poundland, to add a festive touch, and sang happy birthday once more, this time with a much larger crowd as I had invited all the friends I had made along my journey in Bath to celebrate my born-day.

It was my usual kind of birthday, surrounded by great friends, my favourite sweets, and lots of dancing but it was special because this time, “happy birthday” was sung not only in Portuguese, French, and English, but also in Arabic, Chinese, Urdu, and Serbian. We spent the rest of the evening dancing to the sounds of Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Colombia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Pakistan, India, Peru, China, Syria, Jordan, Italy, and of course, Cabo Verde.’

6. Selamat ulang tahun

With many events each and every night all across the UK, it’s no wonder this type of event is accessible to almost all budgets. When you add that they often offer concessionary prices for students, it makes special events such as orchestra performances, that much easier to splurge on.

Rizky Amellia Adreasari, Indonesia

‘Being a student, I never imagined that I could repeatedly watch orchestra performances at an affordable price.

I had an amazing birthday celebration this year in the UK. I celebrated my 27th birthday in Royal Festival Hall, by watching an amazing orchestra performance from the St Petersburg Philharmonic. I was so happy and felt as if the orchestra performed the symphony just for my birthday.

It was truly a privilege being a Chevener and the UK will always feel like home to me!’

7. Happy birthday!

A milestone birthday, like the big 3-0, deserves an equally momentous celebration in which you seek discomfort and challenge yourself to reach new heights… like 15,000 feet for example.

Brenelia Kirby, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

‘I celebrated my 30th birthday in June by doing a tandem skydive jump at Hibalstow with my Chevening sisters, Monique Williams of Guyana and Sashagay Middleton of Antigua and Barbuda (pictured).

When I had this idea to “jump out of a plane” to celebrate, the speed with which they supported the idea and willingness to jump along with me was touching but freakishly scary at the same time. I mean who volunteers that quickly to jump out of a plane?

If I didn’t know before, I definitely knew then that these girls were my sisters through anything, and even though my other Chevening sister Chandra Craigg (not pictured) from Turks and Caicos opted not to jump, she still accompanied us to the airfield and cheered us on as though we were in a World Cup final.

Just having that additional support as we took off & landed meant to world to me.

We then swapped the jumpsuits for heels and headed to dinner to continue celebrating with even more Chevening friends from Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Antigua and Barbuda, Turks and Caicos, Guyana, Belize, and of course St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I was reminded of how amazing my Chevening family is, from a surprise bouquet of flowers, to paying for my dinner, to dancing the night away until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a birthday I will remember forever, and I am grateful to have spent it with my amazing Chevening family. Cheers to more adventures!’

Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.

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