Four words changed Bojana Marinkovic’s life forever. “We are delighted to…” began her letter from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. They were enough to tell Marinkovic that years-long of toil and sacrifice had paid off. She had won a once-in-a-lifetime full scholarship to the UK.
It was not just any scholarship. Prestigious and competitive, the Chevening Scholarship is coveted by ambitious and talented folks all over the world. It’s a big deal — tuition and everything else are covered, opening up a UK degree and its seemingly endless perks and privileges, typically restrictive for its eye-watering fees, to many. That’s not including all the money-can’t-buy chances to rub shoulders with the who’s who of the global intelligentsia.
For Marinkovic, the full force of winning the Chevening Scholarship hit her at the airport. “I think that I was aware that nothing is going to be the same anymore after that moment,” she tells Study International in an interview. “It is so liberating and scary at the same time, and it is a true example of leaving your comfort zone to step into something unknown.
We caught up Marinkovic to learn more about her “powerful and marvellous experience,” how she won her full scholarship to the UK and how others can follow in her footsteps:
1. How did you find out about the Chevening Scholarship?
I vividly remember the first time I heard about the Chevening scholarship. It was during the first year of my undergraduate law studies and I was sitting in one of the classrooms, when my friend told me about it. From that moment I decided that I wanted to have this experience and that I wanted to become part of the Chevening community.
Subsequently, I was devoted to achieving this goal, and this year all my previous efforts and hard work has been recognised. I started my postgraduate studies at Newcastle University, which is one of the 24 most prestigious universities in the famous Russell Group and it was my first choice for studying the International Commercial Law LLM programme.
2. Can you detail the application process for this full scholarship to the UK from start to end please? If you could describe this process in one word, what would it be and why?
The application process has a couple of phases, and it takes at least eight months from the moment of applying to the moment of final selection for the scholarship.
Firstly, you need to submit an online application form in which you explain in detail your educational background and previous work experience, because it is necessary to have at least two years of work experience before applying. An important part of this phase is to write essays about your leadership experience, networking abilities, plans for your career and why you have chosen the UK. You will also be choosing three universities you are planning to apply.
Later, you will be scanned for eligibility to study in the UK and to be awarded a scholarship. If you pass that initial phase, your whole application will be examined and assessed by the Chevening reading committee and for the next phase, the best candidates will be shortlisted.
Then, the British embassy or High Commissioner will be informing the shortlisted candidates about the interview. This usually takes place around April, which is approximately six months after submitting the online application. The last part is waiting for the results.
Apart from that, a parallel process is applying to the universities you have listed in the online application. You must be conditionally selected by Chevening and have an unconditional offer from one of the chosen universities before the deadline to receive the final award letter for the scholarship.
3. What was the easiest and hardest part of the application process?
The easiest part for me was the interview, I had a remarkably pleasant conversation with the panel. They are true professionals and they made me feel extremely relaxed, even though I was
nervous before it started. I will always remember that day.
The hardest part was waiting for the results for three and a half months after the interview. That part was really nerve-wrecking and filled with trepidation. Eventually, when I saw the email starting with “we are delighted to” I knew I accomplished my dream and everything that had happened before was worth it.
4. Why did you choose to further your studies in the UK? Why not in your home country?
I always thought that the UK has the best higher education system in the world. The first time I visited the UK was during my undergraduate studies when I was participating in the Moot Court competition at Oxford University.
From that moment I was sure that I wanted to return and continue my educational path here. Their approach and studying methods are unique and research possibilities are almost unlimited, perfect for ambitious and decisive people.
The potential for continuous improvement is indefinite, and besides studying, there are a lot of opportunities for further career development. However, I have to say that even though the educational system in my home country is completely different, it gave me more than a solid base.
5. What has been your most memorable academic experience in the UK so far?
I completely enjoy when we are having debates during classes, and we are analysing different legal approaches. Critical thinking is very nurtured here, and that is a considerable advantage in the learning process.
In addition, during the last week, my professor told me that my research proposal has a lot of potential to be published as an academic article so I am very proud of that, and I will continue to work to achieve that.
6. What has been your most memorable non-academic experience in the UK so far?
The opportunity to travel and visit countless new places. So far, I have travelled across Scotland and the northern parts of England. I have to say that Edinburgh is the most beautiful city so far for me in the UK. Travelling is my passion, because I think it is the easiest way to meet a new culture and that is something I am trying to do in my spare time.
7. What has been the most emotional part of your Chevening journey so far?
The moment when I was at the airport leaving my home country. I think that I was aware that nothing is going to be the same anymore after that moment. It is so liberating and scary at the same time, and it is a true example of leaving your comfort zone to step into something unknown. Such a powerful and marvellous experience.
8. How do you plan to make a difference with your UK degree?
I was always problem-solving oriented, diligent, and enthusiastic to go a little bit further and to expand possibilities. I think that the biggest advantage after I finish my postgraduate legal studies, besides my expended knowledge, will be the experience gained in the UK.
The Chevening journey is much more than studying. It is a network of the most prominent individuals, and I will use it to change things for the better. I like to provoke my mind and to dream big. Consequently, I have a lot of new things on my agenda for the future. I would love to stay focused on the legal field, as it is my true passion, but at the same time, I want to make room for new industries and sectors where I can make meaningful contributions.
9. What do you like and dislike most about the UK?
People are very friendly and polite, and they are more than helpful and willing to guide you, if needed. Nonetheless, the architecture of the cities is breathtaking, but I admire the charming countryside landscapes as well. The only problem that I am facing is cold, windy weather, but some people say that you get used to it, and I tend to be optimistic.