10th November 2011 Chevening, UK

Always Bring Your Umbrella!

Monchi Roderos is one of our new 2011/12 Chevening Scholars from the Philippines. He is studying Public Services Policy and Management at University College London. In his week’s Chevening Conversations entry, he tells us about his thoughts just prior to travelling to the UK, and most important of all, whether to bring an umbrella.

A Pre-Departure Requirement?


Monchi Roderos

One July afternoon, the British Embassy and British Council organized a pre-departure seminar for us departing Filipino Chevening scholars. During the event they briefed us about the scholarship, our responsibilities as scholars and life in the UK. They even invited former Chevening scholars who graciously shared with us some of their experiences. One of them, in particular was this:

“Always bring your umbrella. You never know when it will rain in London.”

For some reason I found it amusing and practical to remember it. And now as I prepare to take up my MSc inLondon, I found myself dwelling on this suggestion seriously. Bringing an umbrella seems to be sound advice on 3 of my major pre-departure concerns:  the UK’s climate, my academic studies and life in London.

My first concern is the UK’s temperate climate which usually means having winter, spring, summer and autumn. This seems to be a welcome change, since living in a tropical country you’re limited to just two seasons: dry and wet. But they also say that rain is plentiful all year round especially in London where overcast skies seems to be the norm and people are genuinely delighted when the sun is out. There have been some studies on the correlation of the weather affecting your mood. A gloomy weather dampens your emotional well-being. For someone who’s used to seeing the sun shine during the day, I wonder how this will affect me. What I do know, however, is that it’s practical to bring an umbrella for those surprise showers that London is known for.

On my concern about academics, I’ve been out of the university for some time already and I’ll be studying in one of the top-ranked colleges in the world. So I guess it’s pretty natural to feel a bit anxious about academics. One of the characteristics of the Philippine educational system is the student is constantly tested through-out the school year, such as long tests, midterms and exams, to gauge the student’s learning progression. The British system, as I’ve been told, has a major exam at the end. Not at the end of each term but one exam at the end of the school year. Cramming will certainly prove to be disastrous which might necessitate adjusting my study habits accordingly.

But more than the academics, I do hope that what I’ll learn from my MSc will be beneficial in the development of the Philippines. I expect to learn from the UK experience of implementing sound public policy and contribute to the progress of the Philippines. And how does the umbrella suggestion fit into this? Well, if you’re rushing towards the only exam that you’ll have for your grad studies and it suddenly rains, having an umbrella will look pretty useful.

And lastly living in London is a cause of concern yet also excites me at the same time. It worries me because London is one of the world’s alpha cities and I fear that I may get lost just wandering its multitude of streets just absolutely teeming with people. But London also attracts the best and brightest to study, work and live. And I do hope that I get to meet these people who will make my stay in the UK all the more interesting. With so many things to do you never know what opportunity will present itself. And so coming to London, the general attitude should be that one should always be prepared for anything. Pretty much like always bringing an umbrella just in case it rains.

So I wish my fellow Chevening scholars the best of luck. A year from now, I hope to look back at my stay in the UK and with a smile on my face expressing, “What an adventure!” With an umbrella in hand, of course. And it will only be the beginning.

Monchi will update us on how his first few months as a student in the UK have gone later on in the year. If you are a Chevening scholar or alumnus and you would like to submit a blog entry, please get in touch. 500 to 700 words please. Remember that you can link to your own blog page if you have more to say. We would be particularly interested to hear about the initial experiences of the UK from our new 2011/12 scholars.