Meet the Chevening Scholars

Chevening Scholars

Last month, this year’s cohort Chevening Scholars met up to share how they were finding life at SOAS in the first term of their studies. We had a chance to sit down with a few of them and ask them about their backgrounds, what they hope to gain from their postgraduate studies and a food question about what national dish they would take to a potluck…

 

April CummingsName: April Cummings
Country: Thailand
Subject: MA Gender Studies

Why did you choose SOAS?
I chose SOAS because I was looking to study particularly the region where I’m from. I was originally working in the development sector where I was focusing on the Asia-Pacific. I wanted to look for information that was specific to the region, in order to return home and apply the knowledge to the development sector and the field of my workplace. After looking through the curriculum, this was the only place in the UK that was very specific to my needs of what I was looking for to enhance my knowledge and be useful for my future work as well.

What are your aspirations after you complete the scholarship?
I’m studying Gender Studies and in Thailand, we have a large LGBT+ community but also, there are a lot of challenges and issues when it comes to women’s rights and sex workers. That is something that is a taboo topic in our society so I wanted it to be one of the few gender scholars that would return to our country because a gender scholar in Thailand is very dire. it was my purpose that I really wanted to specialise in gender studies in order to go back home and to make gender studies mainstream and also to cultivate future feminists among youth.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
Wow. This is really hard because I come from Thailand and I feel like here in the UK, there are a lot of Thai restaurants. However, the level of authenticity is very different. So I think that if I would cook a dish, I would probably bring some very local village dish called kaeng pa. That is something that I haven’t really seen in the UK yet. Basically, they collect all these vegetables that are grown in the back of their houses. It’s so fragrant with a lot of spices and it’s also very healthy. It can be vegan as well so it’s very inclusive for people. It’s also a good opportunity to introduce some new Thai dishes to people as well, so I would definitely be bringing kaeng pa.
 


 

Hamzah Al-KmaliName: Hamzah Al-Kmali
Country: Yemen
Subject: MSc Public Policy, Finance and Management

Why did you choose SOAS?
I chose SOAS because I heard a lot about it. It’s one of the best universities in the UK and in the world. Unlike other universities, most of the graduates from SOAS are just some of the best interpreters, they have a lot of experience and they have a very good social impact in their communities.

What is it like meeting people from all around the world?
To be honest, I was shocked by the multicultural society here. It is a very good experience. It’s not only about the curriculum. You get to study countries in a different way than you already know, and they give you their experiences and their life stories.

What is your background and what are your career aspirations after you complete the scholarship?
My undergraduate was in medical school so I have had a big career shift. I then worked with the government at the Ministry of Health and Sports. My hope is to make an impact on my country to bring peace again, and to do better for the youth generation, my generation, who deserves a better life and a better future.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
Yemen has a lot of different food. We have fahsa, we have saltah, we have shafoot, we have kabsa, mandi – you name it, we have it. Yemen is a very multi-cultural country where each city is different with different customs, different traditions, different food on the table, different personalities. But they are all humble and lovely to live with so I wish that all of you can come to my country and see it in person.
 


 

Faith DlaminiName: Nomfundo Faith Dlamini
Country: South Africa
Subject: MSc Development Studies

Why did you choose SOAS?
I chose SOAS because of the post-colonial element of theory. I’m definitely a person who has been embedded within the developmental sector, pertaining to a lot of the political work that I have been doing in my country. I found that their elements of teaching and thought, and especially interaction are appealing in terms of what it is that I’m wanting to do in the southern regions.

What are your career aspirations after you complete the scholarship?
My career aspiration is to definitely go back and embed myself within the South African government and continue to work in the development sphere. Before I left, I was actually working on a pilot project that has to do with local government reform. It’s always been a passion and a desire of mine to readdress the inequalities and injustices that I’ve seen happening in my country of birth and origin.
But also to ensure that interconnected, continental connectivity. Sharing also allows for that type of interaction because I’m meeting fellow like-minded individuals, not just from South Africa or the southern parts of Africa but also from other countries and other diasporic regions in Africa – that’s been fantastic.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
Oh, jeepers. Where do I start? I would probably bring a braai experience. So that would be anything from our traditional pap,
chakalaka – which is a very lovely tangy relish, to our boerewors – our marinated meat. It would be an entire meal I guess, but it would definitely be something that is completely satisfying and you’ll want to go to sleep after eating it. 
 


 
Val-Roque

Name: Val Roque
Country: Philippines
Subject: MA International Law

Why did you choose SOAS?
SOAS has a reputation of being a university that challenges the status quo. For someone from the government, I would really be interested in hearing alternative points of view as to what we’re doing in government.

What’s it been like meeting so many scholars from all over the world?
To me, it’s part of the learning process. The fact that there are a lot of us from developing countries is of tremendous value because that way we can share our different experiences and also be in touch with each other in the future, as part of advocacy for bringing about positive change, whether in a particular country or the world.

What do you tell people about the Philippines when you meet them?
Well, SOAS actually has a Philippines Studies programme that is run with the support of the Philippine government and that really is a way for the Philippines to showcase itself and its research amongst the scholars here at SOAS. When I’m asked about the Phillippines, I always point to that programme.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
I would bring a famous Filipino dish called adobo. It’s meat cooked in vinegar and it can come in chicken or pork. But I’m hoping that we’ll have a plant-based version in the near future!
 


 

Darla-RudakubanaName: Darla Rudakubana
Country: Rwanda
Subject: MA Social Anthropology

Why did you choose SOAS?
I chose SOAS because it has a reputation to help and push you to think critically. I was just talking to some of the scholars about how in our classes we’ve been questioning a lot of what we believe in, but also we have the space to talk about our experiences which is really enriching.

How has it been meeting people from so many different countries as part of the programme?
It’s been my favorite part, to be honest. I knew that the scholarship would allow me to connect with a lot of people from different countries. I’m very interested in meeting new people and hearing their stories. It’s part of what I study and part of what I want to do after my studies.

What are your career aspirations?
I have worked a lot in my country at very different levels. Right now, I would like to contribute to my country at a national level. I worked for an NGO called Imbuto Foundation. We did a lot of amazing work nationally helping youth, women and men in different aspects of health, education and youth empowerment. I’d love to contribute to that, but on a national level as well. If it’s working for the government again and much later on, contribute at a regional and continental level.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
My favorite food actually is agatogo. It is a mix of everything so what we do is have green bananas and boil them with a lot of veggies. It’s like comfort food, especially for the winter. It’s something that will warm you up. That is what I would give to a potluck.

 


 
Mehroj-Mvhiddinov

Name: Mehroj Mvhiddinov
Country: Tajikistan
Subject: MSc Violence, Conflict and Development

Why did you choose SOAS?
The reason I chose SOAS was because it had everything I was looking for like development studies and conflict. These were the things I was specifically interested in. It was sort of a coincidence, because I know about SOAS beforehand from my undergraduate years and I thought I’ll just go ahead and choose it.

What are your career aspirations once complete your scholarship?
I want to go back to my country and work for counterterrorism projects and peace-making processes. I would like to get involved in that and try to see how we can reach peace without harming someone, and how we can achieve a more peaceful environment to have everyone can live and prosper. Tajikistan shares a border with Afghanistan and China, an area where this a lot going on. We’ve always been involved in the all the peace-making processes. But there are a lot of issues regarding recruitment to different extremist organisations. Tajikistan is very vulnerable to that. So this is something that really motivated me to study, to try and find out what engages youths to be involved in these organisations.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
Tajikistan has everything from Persian, Russian and Afghani food. I would do plov or osh. It’s like a broth with rice and meat, and some sort of salad. But, I would say osh. It’s great food.
 


 

Julius Nkambi NcheName: Julius Nkambi Nche
Country: Cameroon
Subject: MSc Development Studies

Why did you choose SOAS?
Firstly, SOAS is fifth in Development Studies in the world which is marvelous. Also, at SOAS, you have the opportunity to meet people from different nationalities and I am enjoying learning lots from different people about different countries.
Studying development at SOAS is very interesting because you get to meet people who have lived the experiences we learn about. We are taught by lecturers who have done their research in the global south and I get insights into what is happening in other African countries.

What are your career aspirations after you complete the scholarship?
I work in a faith-based organisation in Cameroon and they have a development department. Therefore after my studies, I intend to get back there and put these new skills into that department to make sure we bring more development in the church and in Cameroon.

What national dish would you bring to a potluck?
You will enjoy achu from Cameroon. Achu is a delicacy from Bamenda that is prepared with cocoyam. I hope one day you all visit me and have the opportunity to enjoy that delicacy.

You can find out more about the Chevening Scholarship here.

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