My Pre-Departure Briefing Experience
I arrived at the British Council in Accra, Ghana an hour early - and this time not to write the English language test required by UK higher education institutions from international students. I was there to attend a pre-departure briefing as a Commonwealth Shared Scholar, before leaving for postgraduate nursing study at King’s College London a few weeks later. My dream of studying in the UK is close to being realized, and the British Council was going to help prepare me, and other Commonwealth Scholars, for the UK experience.
Sitting in a fully air-conditioned room were about 24 other young men and women, none of whom were familiar to me. We come from different regions of the country but share one common feature: we have been selected by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) in the UK and UK universities for scholarship to study postgraduate programmes in UK higher institutions. The selection criteria was not only based on intellectual aptitude, but also the potential to provide leadership and contribute to the development of our home country, Ghana.
When the British Council staff asked scholars to introduce themselves, I sat upright on my seat. My curiosity of knowing which prestigious UK university each scholar would be attending and their field of study was soon satisfied. Programmes of study varied to include fields in health, agriculture, education, economics, and law. The introductions paved the way for the main activities of the day.
Before and After Arriving in the UK
Scholars were taken through a series of presentations to prepare us for departure, arrival, and living in the UK for the period of our study. These were highlighted through such topics as immigration, first tasks on arrival, British weather, adjusting to UK life, among others. I felt confident about my impending stay in the UK and adjusting to academic life through these presentations.
A subsequent presentation on thesis writing and time management provided the knowledge and skills required for academic success in UK universities. Messages from previous scholars would later leave me feeling inspired, ready to take full advantage of all that UK education has to offer.
Time with the Alumni
The words of wisdom echoed by previous scholars and fellows present at the event was priceless. A blend of old alumni going as far back as the 1990s and current alumni as fresh as 2016 led to an interesting balance of perspectives. They shared their personal experiences and provided practical wisdom on managing finances, staying healthy and choice of accommodation. Their emphasis on good interpersonal relationships with supervisors and other students, the need for networking, and taking advantage of the support services available in UK universities will in no doubt have a bearing on our academic success. One alumna urged scholars to remember the 4Hs - humility, honesty, human relationship, hard work - and to defend their title as scholars.
As I listened to these great minds, I imagined myself soon joining and collaborating with the Ghanaian commonwealth scholarship alumni community after my programme, to contribute to economic development and help mentor new scholars.
See You in London Soon
The event provided the first opportunity for scholars and fellows to meet and network among themselves. A decision to create a WhatsApp group to maintain contact and share relevant information among scholars has since been implemented. The group currently has a membership of 39 scholars/fellows and 4 alumni. While we scholars look forward to meeting next at the CSC welcome event in London and other subsequent events, the fact will remain with some scholars that it was at a CSC/British Council pre-departure briefing that we first met before departing on this life-changing journey.
Stephen Adombire (2017/18 Commonwealth Shared Scholar from Ghana; MSc Clinical Nursing; King’s College London).