Rwandan Chevening alumni have always returned to the country as leaders and innovators, pushing boundaries in a wide range of professional fields such as politics, business, media, civil society, science and technology, academia, and more. For example, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, current Minister of Justice, graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2003 with a Masters in Environmental Law, Kampeta Pitchette Sayinzoga, CEO of the Development Bank of Rwanda, who went to the University of Nottingham in 2006 and majored in MSc Economic Development and Policy, Berna Namata Umutoni, Panelist at The Square TV Show, who went to the University of London in 2016 and holds an MA Media and Communications, and others. Chevening is the international scholarships and fellowships program of the United Kingdom government, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and partner organizations to provide individuals with the potential to inspire, inform, and influence positive change. In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Olivia Ingram, Chevening programme manager covering Rwanda and Burundi, shared more about the scholarship program and how more Rwandans can leverage the opportunities. Excerpts: What does it take to become a Chevening scholar? Chevening Scholarships are given to exceptional emerging leaders from around the world to pursue one-year master’s degrees in the UK. There are no specific criteria for selecting a Chevening Scholar. We are simply looking for people who have the drive, ideas, and clout to provide the solutions and leadership required to build a better future. You must not have previously received another UK scholarship and must have already received unconditional admission to a UK university. How is this different from Chevening fellowships? Chevening Fellowships provide individuals with dynamic training, professional development, and other opportunities to spend time in the UK researching topics relevant to their professional interests. These are tailored short courses, research, or professional placements at UK institutions for mid-career professionals with a significant background who want to increase their knowledge, networks, and potential. Fellowships differ from scholarship programs in that fellows continue to work in their field during their time in the UK, whether through a short course or self-directed professional or academic research. Fellows are usually unable to take a full year off from work to study for a one-year master’s degree, so we offer them a unique opportunity to study in the UK at various pre-set times throughout the year. Why should a person from Rwanda apply for this scholarship? The United Nations recently stated that you recognize the importance of higher education in achieving sustainable development goals. The point is that we are trying to achieve those sustainable development goals through academic opportunities that people may not have in their home countries. In the UK, there is a strong emphasis on the academic culture of questioning things. An academic course is more than just lessons in which the lecturer tells you what to do. You’re expected to read up on topics and participate in debates and tutorials. We’ve noticed that scholars are often shocked to find themselves sitting across the table from someone who has written millions of books, many of which they have read. And this person is inquiring about what they think and what they have read. The idea is to open that debate, have those exchanges, and bring people together who are all sort of mid-career experts in their field to exchange knowledge, then take it back to their respective countries. How many alumni have you had so far and how were they impacted? We have 135 Rwandan alumni to date, over 50 000 worldwide since Chevening started in 1983, and we are currently present in 120 countries. The idea is that you do not simply return to your country and disappear. You become a part of a global network of people, outside your country. You can continue to use that network and tap into it for opportunities. It is ultimately up to the individual to put the exchange of high-level professionals, improved international cooperation, and knowledge exchange at their disposal to good use. Is there something else to note before applying? The scholarship or fellowship programs cannot be followed online. The scholarships are entirely funded (flights, accommodation, and course fees are all included). You must live and study in the UK for a year, during which time you will grow professionally and academically, network extensively, and experience UK culture. You are free to pursue any course as long as you can demonstrate why it is necessary and how it will benefit your country. The application for the academic year 2023/2024 is open until November 1. However, there are only a few slots available, seven to nine due to limited budget. What is your message to future Rwandan applicants? I would strongly encourage everyone to apply even if Chevening is a highly competitive program. Many people manage to get it on the second, third, fourth, and sometimes even fifth trial, which you understand is a long time. But, in the long run, if you have a big enough vision, you can tell us what you want to do and why. Consider what kind of change you want to see in your country. We have people studying anything from filmmaking at the London School of Film to cultural and heritage studies, media communications, and law. There’s no shame in not getting in the first time; if anything, it shows how much you believe in your vision. There is no limit; just go for it.