How I got a scholarship to study in the UK
Tasmina Chowdhury, from Chittagong in Bangladesh, has a Westminster Scholarship to study MSc Management with International Business at the University of Chester.
I was lucky enough to attend Chittagong Grammar School where I followed an international curriculum. I was taught by teachers from overseas and met lots of international students who visited our school on a cultural exchange, so when I came to the UK it did not feel like I had landed on a completely different planet. I have to admit though that I have never walked so much in my life, the UK has very pleasant weather, the air is clean, the city is safe and there is much less traffic than in Bangladesh. The university is located just a few minutes away from the high street, so I do not need to use a bus or train and can get everywhere I want simply by walking - a big change for me as I always used my car when back home, even for the shortest trips.
Scholarship opportunities to study overseas
When I started researching funding opportunities in 2012, I unsuccessfully applied for many scholarships. I quickly realised that if you want to get a good scholarship you need to stand out from the crowd and take time preparing your application. It is not something that can be done overnight. So I got really serious about adding extra-curricular activities to my CV. The first step towards achieving my goal was to get a new job which would give me international exposure, so I started working at the British Council as an Exam Services Officer. In addition to this I started teaching English at a public school to underprivileged children. I also attended many workshops on subjects such as development for third world countries or management.
After building this experience I finally felt ready to apply for scholarships again. I submitted applications to seven UK Universities and in the end received a Westminster Scholarship* from the University of Chester to study MSc Management with International Business.
Differences in educational systems between Bangladesh and the UK
Class sizes are smaller in the UK and some of my classes are attended by no more than eight students. This allows us to interact with the lecturer and each other more closely. Lecturers are very supportive and friendly, there is definitely less distance between us and them. They are more like friends rather than aliens from a different planet.
Most of my assessments in Bangladesh were based on exams. In Chester it is a mixed approach - I had to sit a few exams, but I also had to write a number of assignments. I used more independent thinking and improved my research skills. Copying and pasting is not allowed, so you have to read lots of journals and then extract the most important information and then put it in your own words. It can be quite overwhelming at first, but the university offers special study skills classes where students can learn how to approach their assignments.
And finally - you get the international exposure, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to study overseas in the first place. In my class you can find students from Poland, UK, Brazil, Nigeria, Cameroon, India and Oman and then I go back to my housemates who are from France and Spain. I have made so many great friends here in just three months, it is unbelievable.
Outside of class
At first, I thought that if I had only two days of lectures and seminars I would have lots of free time. I could not have been more wrong. Students have to spend a considerable amount of time in the library researching and preparing for the next class.
Fortunately I have managed to find some spare time to get involved in other activities. Studying and obtaining good grades is important for me of course, but I want to make sure that I further build up my CV.
I have found the student portal very useful. All the course materials are available there, so you can check the notes if you have missed lessons. The portal also lets you know about various facilities and events offered to students.
I have started attending the European Computer Driving Licence course. It would cost more than £100 if I wanted to do it privately, yet it is free for University of Chester students. I have also attended a Project Management workshop organised by the university and I am waiting for my certificate. I applied for the UniJob (jobs for students on campus) as soon as I arrived in Chester and managed to secure a part time job with the University of Chester Career Service. I am also planning to do a volunteering job for the International Office in my spare time.
*Westminster Scholarships may be awarded to students who apply for the Commonwealth Scholarships by the specified deadline, meet the criteria, but are not shortlisted.