When I received the email from the representative of the British High Commissioner inviting me to the Chevening pre-departure reception at Abuja slated for Friday, 9th September, 2022, I thought I was royalty, because the email invite was fancy with the Chevening insignia in gold at the top. It all felt very grand and honouring, and like you, I was curious; what exactly happens at the pre-departure event? I had only one hint; dress casually.
Thursday came, and it bore a grey cloud of sad news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth, it also meant the possibility of the cancellation of the event. Having travelled to Abuja amidst the trepidation caused by insecurity like the majority of the attendees, the possibility elicited mixed feelings. We knew it was befitting to mourn one of the greatest leaders of many generations, but it meant we would be denied that rite of passage. It was a relief, therefore, when we received an email informing us that the event would go ahead as planned but it was going to be lowkey and sombre. We were also to hold off posting pictures till after the ten days of mourning. We could do that surely.
Perhaps the most exciting part of Friday was attaching a face to half of the names on the group. These are people that have already turned to family, individuals we have shared our struggles and stories with, followed up processes with, and generally helped and supported each other in times of need (which are many). By the time the event ended, it seemed like everyone had become well familiar with everyone else and we had turned into a colourful, diverse and unlikely family bound by a life-long association. But before then, we socialised, ate and drank.
At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, we were given a breakdown of what to do pre-departure, travel guidelines, arrival, securing accommodation, NHS, medical care, some knowledge on the educational system in the UK etc by Mrs Olufunmilayo Ladepo, the Chevening officer. She made sure we were clear on our Chevening bond which mandates us to come back to Nigeria for at least two years many, many times. We also received a tote bag with Chevening branded souvenirs inside and our cashcards.
Next was the reception. Several invitees, some of whom are staff of FCDO, alumni and friends of the High Commision were in attendance. I had the pleasure of meeting my lead interviewer, Aisha Dasgupta and we had a long and interesting discussion on Mental Health and Nigeria.
We networked with the invitees, alumni and scholars and basically anyone available, (apart from the security guards which is unfortunate as I have a feeling they would be interesting).We were presented with our certificates, some scholars made some touching remarks, we took pictures and at the descent of dusk, parted ways.Donate
To say I have enjoyed the reception is an understatement. And I am not talking about the finger foods served though they gave us a taste of the UK and were certainly a plus, I am talking about the people met and conversations had because in those hours, we; people of different colours, sizes, backgrounds from diff places and studying different things, bonded. I am looking forward to more events that will come (next is in the UK) and I will surely keep you updated.
Wishing to be among the next Chevening family? Make that application come alive!