Jakarta to London: Santi’s Chevening scholarship adventure
The Chevening program offers scholarships to international students to study a one-year Master’s degree in the UK. Chevening scholars are bright, ambitious and make up a diverse international community. It’s no wonder that the scholarships are held in such high regard. Since 1983, over 50,000 professionals have studied in the UK through the program.
Santi Dharmawan is a young student from Jakarta. When she applied for the Chevening scholarship, she saw the opportunity to achieve her academic and professional goals. But more than that, she would realize her dream of living in the UK.
So, how did Santi’s Chevening scholarship journey begin?
Moving to London through the Chevening scholarship
Santi first heard about the scholarship from her older sister. “It has a great focus on international development,” Santi says, “which is the area I’ve always wanted to work in.”
She had been working with charities and NGOs, and some of her senior colleagues suggested applying for the Chevening scholarship too.
“My professors at the University of Indonesia also all said that it was a great option for studying international relations, human rights, or political economy,” she adds.
Previously, Santi had been to the UK for a visit long before she thought of applying for the scholarship, and she’d spent a couple of days in London. Like so many people, she found the city really exciting and inspiring. “I remember thinking to myself, I have to study here. I want to work and live in London one day.”
Santi’s dream of living in London came true. She was awarded a scholarship to her first choice of university, King’s College London. She was going to study for a Master's in the Political Economy of Emerging Markets.
Getting off the plane and arriving in the hustling, busy capital city was a shock to the system. The streets were busy and everyone was in a hurry, just like home. There were new sights, sounds, and ways of doing things. And Santi had to get things done quickly.
“It was very overwhelming! I arrived with another friend from Indonesia, and the first week it was Freshers Week at the university, but we were also flat hunting - it was really intense.”
The practicalities of moving to the UK were challenging, especially organizing accommodation from abroad.
“Now, looking back, I think how brave, to come to London without having any accommodation beyond the first week,” says Santi.
“But before we came we didn’t know how much we could trust the online sites, and we wanted to view flats physically,” she explains. “Anyway, it all worked out!”
Experiencing a new academic culture
London was a huge contrast to Jakarta in many ways. But the biggest difference for Santi was the academic culture.
“In Indonesia, the educational setting and the relationship between students and lecturers are really different. It’s more of a transfer of knowledge from the professor to the students. There may be Q&As but there’s no debate,” Santi explains.
At the end of the term in Indonesia, students often write an essay based on what they’ve covered.
“But in the UK, you’re expected to read a lot, and be an active contributor to class discussion.”
Santi didn't expect that, so when she received the reading materials for her first class she didn’t know she was supposed to read them.
“I thought they would go through them in a lecture during the class,” Santi says. “When we actually were in the class, I was asked for my opinion, and I was just completely clueless - I didn’t know what they were talking about!”
But once Santi had got to grips with this new way of learning, she much preferred it. “It really teaches you to think critically and to express your opinion.”
Becoming part of a diverse student community
“It is a melting pot and that’s one of the things I love about it.”
Santi’s favorite thing about her experience as a Chevening scholar was the community that she became part of while studying at King’s College London. “I thought the majority of students were going to be English, but they weren’t - it was really balanced,” she says.
“I made friends from England, but I also made friends from other countries too, which was fantastic. I was part of a network of a lot of international students.”
Santi met people from all over the world at the Chevening scholarship events, and of course London is a very multicultural city as well. “It’s one of the benefits and privileges of living in London,” she says. “It is a melting pot and that’s one of the things I love about it. Me and my friends used to have dinner parties where we’d all bring a dish from our country and that was really special. I loved those dinners.”
Gaining new career opportunities
Santi found that the Chevening scholarship opened up lots of career opportunities for her. “It’s very well regarded,” she explains. “If you’re one of the young Indonesian students who got selected for Chevening, then employers know that you are very capable and you’ve got good academic English.”
For the moment, Santi is working in London in the field of public relations and corporate communications and building her career - something that wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship.
For anyone who is planning to study abroad, Santi has some words of advice:
“One of the things I learned from my experience is that people are very friendly and they want to help you. So, don’t be afraid of asking for support.”
How to apply for the Chevening Scholarship
If you’d like to apply for the Chevening scholarship, you can learn more on their website. Chevening removed their English language requirement in 2020, meaning that you’ll no longer have to show your English level as part of the scholarship application.
However, you’ll need to prove your level of English to apply for a Master's at a UK university. PTE Academic is accepted by the UK government and 99% of British universities.