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Postgraduate scholars

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Ling Zhou

Nationality: Chinese

Degree Programme: Taught Master

“Chevening Scholarships are the UK government’s global scholarship programme, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations. The programme makes awards to outstanding scholars with leadership potential from around the world to study postgraduate courses at universities in the UK.

I was very lucky to be awarded the Chevening scholarship in 2013 and was provided the great opportunity to study intercultural Education and internationalization in Durham University-one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. As a teacher and college administrator working in the international office back in China, I have always been interested in how the UK schools teach interculture and how they internationalise their education, then I could reflect on the current practices in China or in the college I work for. Chevening scholarship has made my dream come true by offering a wide range of benefits to me which includes generous financial support, education related events and the wide Chevening scholars network.

It was really nice and worthwhile to take one year off to go back to university after many years working as a professional. As a mature students having years of working experience, I have a clearer idea and goal of what I need and what I should be achieving during this precious year in the UK. This is an invaluable opportunity for me to grow not only academically but also professionally and personally. I could have had no idea what UK education looked like and what it is to be a student in Durham University without the Chevening scholarship. Moreover, I could have never thought about making connections between Chinese schools and British schools if I have never studied education in a UK university.

The Chevening scholarship has just provided me with the greatest experience in my life that I will always remember. Thanks, Chevening, thanks, Durham University. I hope I could make contributions to the mutual understanding of China and the UK and promote the educational exchanges between these two Countries. This is also what Chevening would like us as ‘Chevenors’ to achieve when we go back to our own countries."

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Mohammad Samawat Ullah

Nationality: Bangladeshi

Degree Programme:MSc Internet Systems and Ebuisiness

"As the one having a bright record throughout the student life, I wanted to opt for technically challenging and fulfilling career. After learning and working almost eight years in both education and Information Technology (IT) industry, I strongly felt the need to delve myself into world Class University and an opportunity to work with international researchers. So, with that motive I thoroughly went through UK university websites for my chosen topic. I have found that, the Durham University and Commonwealth scholarship commission is jointly offering highly prestigious commonwealth shared scholarship on a course of my interest and applied accordingly. Consequently, I was privileged to get the offer from Durham University.

Clearly, the quality of education and the facilities within the college and around university are A-class resources for all the students. Moreover, the knowledge, education and experiences, I have gathered by being in Durham University, I feel that I have the necessary tools to devote myself into research and development work.

I did not know any single person in Durham on the first day of my arrival. However, seeing the welcoming attitude of Ustinovian and everyone in Durham, I had the confidence to adapt with this new environment very fast. Then, with a smiling face, I started meeting different people and having really some good friends. Therefore, believing in my potential to make a significant contribution to the students experience in Ustinov College, I expressed my interest for GCR president position. Hence, with the inspirations and supports from majority GCR members I become the President to represent the students of GCR for the session 2013-2014. Being an international student this opportunity is definitely a life time experience for me.

In addition, Durham collegiate system gave me a complete different taste of university life and taught how to grow as a team. Besides, the welcoming attitude from people in Durham had never let me miss my home country. Also, the environment and neighbourhood is something to be missed once I will leave Durham. The historic Cathedral, Castle Elvet River, maiden castle, walking tours around and the college trips to most beautiful places in UK are definitely unique experiences of being a part of Durham University.

Furthermore, several workshops and conferences organized by commonwealth scholarship commission have certainly added great value to my experiences.

Finally, everything was achievable as the scholarship awarded to me and I would like to give A BIG THANK YOU to Durham University and commonwealth scholarship commission to reward me such wonderful year of my life."

2014/15 Scholar

Name: Soksamphoas Im

Nationality: Cambodian

Degree Programme: MSc Defence, Development & Diplomacy

“Since a very young age, I have always wanted to become a Diplomat. Because I have this dream I knew what I wanted to study to be a professional diplomat. I started my undergraduate study in International Relations with a dream of pursuing a master degree in diplomacy somewhere in the West. I believe in the quality of education in developed country. Yet as a daughter of a middle class family from a developing country made me aware that my family won’t be able to afford for my dream higher education in the western country. I was a little bit desperate and almost going to give up my desire. However, I was motivated by my qualified experiences and the higher education scholarship opportunities provided for potential Cambodian students such as myself. The United Kingdom has always been one of my target countries to further my university experience due to its world renowned institutions and especially the native English language speaking country.

I have always been very much preparing myself to apply for the postgraduate scholarship. I believe that, “Luck could only happen when preparation meets opportunity.” It was on a Friday of February this year during my office hour break, I browsed scholarship webpage ( which I often visited and saw the announcement of Open Society Foundation calling for application. I read the program description thoroughly and noted to myself I am going to apply for this scholarship. I had spent about a week writing and arranging a good application due to the short closing deadline. However, after submitted my application I was anxiously waiting for the outcome of my application for about three months (there were some delays).

It was on June 12th 2014 the moment that forever change my life, a moment that would shine the journey of my life, when I received an email from Durham University Scholarship Officer confirming I have been competitively selected for the Civil Society Leadership Award. It was very hard for me to believe in this miracle, I remember I had a rough interview. One of the interviewees asked how old am I at the final stage of my interview which gave me an idea that I might be too young for this scholarship program as I had only turned 22 two days before the interview date. I called and forwarded the email to my parents, both my parents and I cried out with sheer joy after having received this wonderful news. I couldn’t be any happier to have brought the family a pride. I have to confess that, Durham University was the only university in the UK participates in the Civil Society Leadership Award scheme I had applied to, due to the fact of being listed as one of the top five universities in the UK itself and Durham School of Government and International Affairs that offering a postgraduate degree program: Defence, Development, & Diplomacy which is perfectly matched my interest and my career objective. And that one will never find such a unique course program at any other universities. I am very grateful to the Open Society Foundation for offering me this prestigious opportunity; otherwise I would never be able to make it here. “

2014/15 Scholar

Name: Chanmoniroth Iv

Nationality: Cambodian

Degree Programme: MSc Risk & Environmental Hazards

"Being a scholar is a big achievement in my life. Durham was the only place that I found the subject that I like and Durham is a great place to be study with an excellent education system and varieties of network support both academically and social.

First of all, I would like to express my deep thanks to OSF and Durham who has provided me with such a great opportunity, without your kind support my dream will never come true. Since being here my life has completely changed. I have experienced lots both academically and personally.

Studying in Durham and staying in college makes me feel just like home due to the many support and social network activities. Moreover, it is world class learning, the lectures and seminars are absolutely fantastic. Every module and seminar was connected and allows us to practice to apply all theory. I feel this is transformative and fantastic experience in my life that I can study in Durham. Since now, I learned lots including remote sensing, spatial and fundamental of risk which I never experienced before. It was a challenging for me to attend the class with limited understanding but with distinguished professors and lecturers with sophisticated equipment and a high quality of library, this makes me more comfortable to improve."

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Barbara Mutedzi

Nationality: Zimbabwean

Degree Programme: MSc Medical Anthropology

“The Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship for Sport has enabled me to compete at an international level and represent my country in basketball. Travelling to Wales for training weekends wouldn’t really have been feasible without it. That said, the gains from the scholarship go far beyond the financial support – my Team Durham mentor has helped to ensure that I can manage the workload that comes with my course whilst still training too. This was particularly useful when my basketball finals clashed with exams because my mentor organised for me to still be able to do both. That way, I don’t have to choose between academic and sporting commitments.

I’ve had the opportunity to grow and develop in my sport during my time so far in Durham and even explore a new sport along the way. This summer, I got to travel to Austria to play basketball for Wales for the first time which was an incredible experience and long may it continue! Hopefully I can take what I learn in Durham to Wales over the next few years and progress with the Welsh National team too.

Studying Natural Sciences involves a lot of lectures and contact hours but I think Durham is quite unique in its ability to combine a lot of sport with a lot of academic requirements too. I look forward to seeing what my next few years have in store here!”

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Agnes Wizi

Nationality: Malawian

Degree Programme: MA Social Work Studies

Agnes graduated from the University of Malawi in 2009 with a BEd in Humanities. She has been involved in student initiatives to combat corruption and promote the empowerment of girls in rural areas. She has worked as a schoolteacher and lecturer, and as an intern for the Association of Progressive Women in Malawi. She has also played a leading role in community projects supporting people living with HIV and coordinating young people’s charity work.

At Durham, Agnes took an MA in Social Work Studies. She was a member of St Chad’s College, which supports the Scholarship by providing subsidized accommodation for all Ruth First Scholars. She was elected as postgraduate representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health. Her dissertation focused on the experiences of disabled women in Malawi.

She is staying in the UK for a few months before returning to Malawi. She hopes to work for an NGO or carry out further research related to social work.

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Pearson Nkhoma

Nationality: Malawian

Degree Programme: MA Social Work Studies

Pearson graduated from the University of Malawi in 2009 with a BA in Media for Development. He led several student initiatives to combat poverty and promote AIDS awareness. In 2010-11 he worked as a social worker for Save the Children in Malawi, focusing on childhood development, maternal health and HIV/AIDS. He had earlier been involved in a range of community projects concerned with poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, human rights and reproductive health. He is also a keen practitioner of karate.

At Durham, Pearson took an MA in Social Work Studies. He was elected Taught Postgraduate Representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health. He was a member of St Chad’s College, which supports the Ruth First Scholarship by providing subsidized accommodation. He wrote that he applied for the Scholarship because of "my childhood passion to inspire positive and sustainable breakthroughs in the livelihoods of people, especially those living under the trap of abject poverty", and hopes that "this programme will enable me to be one of the key players in uplifting the lives of people, not only in my country".

Pearson was awarded a prestigious Durham Doctoral Fellowship for a PhD project on child prostitution in southern Africa, building on the work he did for his MA dissertation. He will therefore remain in Durham for a further three years before returning to Malawi.

For more information about Ruth First Scholars, dating back to 1994, please see the Ruth First Educational Trust website.

Santander Scholarship

2013/14 Scholar

Name: Maria Elisa Aranda Blackaller

Nationality: Mexican

Degree Programme: MA Socio-Cultural Anthropology

"The Santander Scholarship was essential for me to be able to come to Durham University, which was one of the few universities in the world to offer an Anthropology postgraduate course for professionals with different BA studies. I wanted to combine my previous studies in Financial Management with postgraduate studies in the social sciences to be able to understand development from a better-rounded perspective. My professional objective is to improve the life quality of as many people as I can reach. It is a huge challenge and I know I will need to invest every possible effort to be the professional I need to be in order to achieve that.

The Santander Scholarship was offered to me very soon after I was admitted to my MA in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. This gave me a huge incentive to find the rest of the funds that I needed to come and study at Durham. If it had not been for this scholarship, I would not have had the possibility to turn into a full-time student again. The struggle with admissions, visa, moving to a different continent, and securing the funding is exhausting. Having Santander and Durham University offering a helping hand was like fresh air to me! I am about to finish my dissertation and in this year I organised in Ustinov College a Latin American party and the projection of a Mexican documentary about Death. I also participated in the organisation of the PG Anthropology Conference 2014, joined the Ustinov Jazz Band, met wonderful people and built relationships for life. I could not be more thankful for this scholarship and wish that one day I will be able to offer the same type of help to other students with big dreams who only need a friendly hand to turn them into wonderful life-changing realities."