Olivia’s Chevening dream: a decade in the making

The Chevening scholarship is a route to studying in the UK for people all over the world. It offers the brightest and best the opportunity to study for a Master’s at a British university. Since 1983, Chevening has helped over 50,000 professionals pursue their studies and become leaders within their communities and sectors.

Chevening scholar Olivia Rondonuwu grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her background was in journalism and she dreamed of studying social policy in the UK. But her path to becoming an international Master’s student wasn’t a straightforward one.

The importance of determination

Olivia knew several successful people working in journalism who’d been awarded Chevening scholarships. As a journalist, she’d interviewed high profile people who were alumni of LSE. Her ambition was to become one of the female leaders in the Indonesian media, focusing on Indonesian social policy.

“I had been thinking about the scholarship for ten years,” she says. “My dream was to study social policy at the London School of Economics, but of course, I couldn’t afford it.”

Competition for the scholarships is fierce, as Olivia discovered the first time she applied to the Chevening scholarship. She got to the interview stage, but she wasn’t successful. Then she applied again - and this time, she didn’t reach the interview stage.

However, Olivia wasn’t deterred from pursuing her dream of studying in the UK - and on her third application for the Chevening scholarship, her persistence paid off. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “It didn’t seem real until I got on the plane to London. It had been such a long process - I was so happy to finally be going to study in the UK.”

Studying at the London School of Economics

So how was Olivia’s first day in London? “It was horrible,” she laughs. “The weather was awful, and my bus got stuck in a traffic jam. In Indonesia, if you’re in a traffic jam, you can just get off the bus and jump on a motorbike taxi – but in London, you can’t do that! And at lunchtime, it seemed like the only option was cold sandwiches – British people love bread!”

As Olivia started the MSc in Social Policy and Development, doubts started creeping in. Had moving to London to study been the right choice for her after all?

Imposter syndrome affects a lot of students who are studying at top universities. At times, they can feel that they don’t belong there. And Olivia felt that, as an older student, she was at a disadvantage, compared to other students who’d gone straight into the Master’s from their undergraduate degree. “I was thirty six,” she explains, “so I was older than a lot of the other students. I felt that I was too old to be there.”

Luckily, it didn’t take Olivia long to shake off these doubts. As the course went on, she was able to recognise the value of her experience as a journalist, and gain in confidence and self-belief.

“You have to look inside yourself,” she explains, “and find the confidence to say, I’m a future leader.” And of course, she’d been waiting for so long to study at LSE -  meaning that she really appreciated every moment, and was able to make the most of this amazing opportunity.

A personal transformation and a new network

Once Olivia got over her imposter syndrome, she found herself gaining more and more confidence, thanks in part to the academic culture at LSE and the focus on critical thinking. “It was quite different from Indonesian academic culture,” Olivia explains.

“Here, you are encouraged to think more critically about your opinion on a topic.” She found that building her critical thinking skills helped with her self-belief. “Once you have the confidence in yourself, it helps you to dare to be different,” she says.

The other thing that Olivia loved about her Chevening experience was meeting other students from all over the world. “I was amazed by how international the group was - there were students from Latin America, from Afghanistan,” she says. “It was very competitive, but very international.”

Studying in the melting pot of a London university was a fantastic way to build a global, professional network.

Advice for other international students

Before Olivia travelled to London, she was given lots of advice by the UK embassy in Jakarta. “They warned us about the weather,” she says. “They even recommended getting a special lamp in case we suffered from seasonal affective disorder!”

But when Olivia is asked what her words of advice were for other international students, her answer is perhaps surprising. “Be brave and embrace it, the bad and the good,” she says. “Enjoy every minute. Yeah, some days the weather will be grey, but enjoy it! It’s all part of the experience of studying in the UK. So enjoy every minute - learning, networking, living in London.”

Though she will admit – she still doesn’t like sandwiches for lunch!

Learn more

In order to study at a UK university and apply for a UK student visa, you’ll need to prove your level of English. PTE Academic is a fast, reliable, computer-based test that is accepted by 99% of UK universities and the UK Home Office as proof of your English language skills. You’ll typically receive your scores in just two days - so you won’t have a long wait for your results, and can get on with the application process!

Learn more about how PTE Academic can help you study in the UK.

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