I HAVE BEEN INVITED FOR THE INTERVIEW.
After I submitted my application, I honestly did not give it more than a cursory thought. At home, I would mention that I was going to study in the UK because I applied for Chevening once a while but it wasn’t with the fervour of one who was awaiting something huge.
I didn’t experience anxiety until the night before the results came out. I just found myself awake and bright eyed by 3:00am. I rummaged through LinkedIn and was shocked to discover that it had been raining application results for a week. Thank God I didn’t know then, I would have ran to the cliffs of madness. (Just kidding, maybe trenches of craze).
I went back to sleep briefly before going to work and all I kept having dreams of different people giving me blue and white souvenirs and merch (the Chevening emblem is blue and white). And each time it was an indication that I had made it to the second round, but each time the person would say it was a prank. It was an arduous dream of the same cycle. The last souvenir I received from the dream was a mug though, and it was an indication that I had been shortlisted for real.
By the time I made it to work in the morning, I had shoved it to the back of my mind. I was on the phone with my sister when I opened my email, and the last message sent was the first message I saw, it was one I had imagined many times. ‘Interview Invitation’. I told my sister to stop talking, she was distracting my excitement and disbelief. Next was a prostration of thanks to God and a call to my Mother.
I was shivering from within and without because as much as I was hopeful, I never really thought I would make it this far. To say I wasn’t up to 50% optimistic is an understatement. This was meant to be a trial, a first time try-out so I can get a feel of things and come back with re-enforcements. But the moment I saw the interview invite, I knew that was it. I had to make it. I had to give the interview my everything. And boy did I give it my all.
For about 4 days, after I received the email that I had been shortlisted for the Chevening Interview, I couldn’t sleep well. The alarms were blaring so loud in my head and I didn’t know where to locate the off button. Or maybe I didn’t want to. Because it meant I was going to work (or war) immediately, I started preparing for the interview immediately. Bad call.Donate
I was watching random YouTube channels, reading materials online, drafting possible questions and answers to them. I was doing this while awake and in my dreams. My anxiety was perking up. I was spiralling downwards without even realising it.I was running towards overkill and being overwhelmed so fast. I had to STOP!
Here’s the thing, I had 6 weeks to prepare before the interview and the way I was going, I was heading towards a definite crash. I didn’t have a defined plan, I hadn’t strategised, I was searching for the answers in the dark and being driven by fear of losing. It was the wrong tactic.
So for the next week, I closed the document I used to jot points down on my electronic devices, chased away all thoughts of Chevening and resumed life as usual. And whenever my anxiety starts showing her maddening, beautiful head, I tell her to calm down, we have time still. I pacified her so that a week after, when I was calmer, saner and more in my element, I went to work with a clearer head.
HOW I WENT ABOUT MY INTERVIEW PREP
First, I re-visited my essays and re-familiarised myself with what I had written. Even though it all came from me, it was about 4 months since I had submitted and it was important to re-read the points I had raised.
Next, I contacted some Chevening Scholars. They weren’t people I knew personally, I had to search LinkedIn and Instagram. The ones that responded sent me WhatsApp and Telegram group links respectively. Tips, pointers, guides, links were shared and I was glad to have joined.
The most important part of joining these groups is that you get current and/or past scholars to organise mock interviews. Mock interviews expose you to what real interviews may look like, what to expect and how to respond. It would never compare to the real deal but it is always a good place to start.
Even though I successfully only had a mock interview for my networking essay (one thing or another always prevented me from holding more), but I listened in to other interviews and I was quick to learn from the mistakes of others.
Some people hold over 5 mock interviews before their real one. The advantage is that you get a feel of the process through the simulation, the disadvantage of interviewing too much is that it gets monotonous. You get too mechanical and over rehearsed to the point of cramming. The interviewers pick on that and the interview will seem like a robotic simulation.
The most important thing to do is to master your points. Ask yourself the questions; Why do I want this scholarship? Why this course? Why this school? Why me? What do I have to offer? How will I go about that? How have I done that in the past? And honestly you are good to go. The questions can be tricky so if you are looking out for some key words in particular, you may end up lost and disappointed. For example my networking essay question did not have a single expected key word. I didn’t expect that. I had to think on my feet and locate where my response should lie. You have to be quick, but if you are stuck, there’s no harm in pausing a bit and thinking your answer through.
RESEARCH. More research. You have bound yourself now, you stop researching only after your studies are done. You will discover more helpful points afterwards that will boost your interview. I researched places, people, and points. I needed unique points others wouldn’t think of. I had to go the extra mile and I believe I raised points that many would have overlooked. For example when asked why Chevening, I not only answered why but why I wanted to go this year because I wanted to be part of the 40th cohort. Chevening’s 40th anniversary is 2023. I know the activities that were held during the 35th Anniversary, I mentioned them and said that I want to be part of the 40th anniversary celebration. The panel was visibly impressed. BE UNIQUE and stand out. There are many more people, use what they will miss.
Next, REVISE. Revise each essay. Shoot vidoes ofyourself responding to questions. Time yourself. Give the questions to your siblings or spouse or friends and hold mock live interviews.
Then REST. Stressing yourself too much will make you a sloppy and anxious interviewee. Be well rested. Be relaxed. Be confident and await the D-day.
Lastly, If I made it, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t. Best of Luck.
From Hafsat, With Love.
Hafsat writes everything Chevening on her blog www.cheveningdiaries.com