Nikesh Mehta

Counsellor for Foreign Policy and Security

Part of Chevening Conversations UK in Malaysia

1st November 2012 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chevening Scholarships: Free, Chevening Experience: Priceless

What would you say if I told you that you could receive an all-expenses paid scholarship to a world-renowned British university and have the chance to join a global network of future leaders from a range of fields and industries? You would want to know more, wouldn’t you?

Well, the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur has just launched the application window for the 2013 Chevening Scholarships programme. The Chevening programme, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been running since 1983 and operates in 116 countries worldwide. The Malaysian edition is one of the largest and offers nearly 30 scholarships; the 2012 scholars are going to be studying subjects as varied as climate change and competition law in cities as far apart as Edinburgh and Oxford.

Before I point you in the right direction to find out more about the application process and what it’s like to be a Chevening scholar, I wanted to dispel a couple of myths.

First, let me be clear that whilst Chevening is a prestigious programme for future leaders, we are looking for good candidates from a variety of backgrounds with a range of qualifications and experiences. Second, we are not solely interested in people wishing to study humanities. This year we are especially keen to receive strong applications from scientists and engineers. And finally, we cover the costs of everything: your tuition fees, air ticket, living allowance and student visa.

It’s a great deal, isn’t it?

But don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at the video clip below and the mini-blog from Niki Cheong, who is currently studying for an MA at King’s College London. If you do want to find out more, please go to and remember, the Malaysian application window runs from 29 October 2012 to 2 January 2013. Good luck! 

Mini-blog by Niki Cheong, Chevening Scholar 2012-13

“Autumn has well and truly arrived, the clocks went back an hour to mark the end of daylight savings last weekend and darkness envelopes the old smoke by 5pm. Yet, after a long lunch yesterday with friends visiting from Kuala Lumpur, I stood right in the middle of the famed Covent Garden and thought about how grateful I am to be able to enjoy a sunny autumn’s day in London.

If you had asked me on the last day of my job as Editor of R.AGE, the youth portal for Malaysia’s largest English daily, The Star, last year if I could believe that I would be living in London a couple of weeks later, I probably couldn’t. This despite the reality that it was going to happen, thanks to the British Chevening Scholarship that I had been awarded alongside 13 others. However, it was all surreal for me, even that close to take off date, because studying in London had been a childhood dream (prior to this, it never happened as I couldn’t afford it).

Then there was the fact that I was also in my early 30s, having spent almost a decade back home in journalism, and people were telling me – when I told them about my intention to apply for the scholarship – that this year off might disrupt my career.

Now, a year on and having just submitted my dissertation for my MA in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London, I can’t believe that I spent those (very few) minutes even contemplating those comments. I have no regrets.

I may not know what my career options are like when I’m back home in Malaysia, but for me, that’s the least of the worries right now. This is because I know that my experience living here in the past year has equipped me with so much more life experiences, and studying here has given me more skills and knowledge that I had before.

Yes, I mention about “living” first because I am the sort of person who believes that while education gives you a solid foundation, it is life skills and experiences that shape who you are, not just as a person but also the quality of the work you produce.

The vibrancy of London has been nothing but enriching. Over the past year, I have been able to immerse myself in the many cultural experiences here through the arts, foods and many festivals that are constantly happening across the city. By attending events around the city (in my case, mostly digital-related ones), I have met and built a network of connections that I would never have had the opportunity before.

Academically, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at King’s. My small class meant that I was able to engage with each and every classmate of mine who come from all over the world and from different backgrounds – film, law, fashion and more. Then there are the frivolous stuff, including the fact that the university’s library looks like it was part of the set of a Harry Potter movie (trivia – our Reading Room in the library was where Professor Dumbledore’s office was shot).

There is much more I can gush about my life in London of course, but those are probably for another post. This year too was a fantastic year to live in this city, especially with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and of course, the London 2012 Olympic Games both of which I was able to enjoy!

Being awarded the British Chevening scholarship has not only given me the chance to improve my skills and learn more academically, it has also given me life experiences that I could only dream about. And yes, in that sense, it made my dreams come true.”

About Nikesh Mehta

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen…

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign
Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in
January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen the British
Government’s relationship with Malaysia on issues such as Counter
Terrorism, Counter Proliferation and Transnational Crime.
Nik joined the Foreign Office in 2002 after nearly three years
working as a teacher in rural Japan. His first experience of culture
shock was trying to explain why he was vegetarian to a group of
sceptical Japanese students. Nik spent a year on the NATO desk in London
before serving in the Coalition Provisional Authority as the Political
Officer for southern Iraq based in Basrah.
In 2004, Nik was appointed as Second Secretary (Political) in Kampala
primarily responsible for reporting on conflict with the Lord’s
Resistance Army, the ensuing humanitarian crisis and the subsequent
peace talks in Juba. The posting was particularly poignant for Nik’s
family as his mother, a Ugandan-Asian, was expelled from the country by
Idi Amin’s forces in 1972.
For the last four years, Nik has served in the Foreign Office’s
Counter Terrorism Department, most recently as Head of the Guantanamo
and Rendition Issues Team.
Nik is in Kuala Lumpur with his Australian wife, Anna, and their
three year old son, Arran. You can follow him on Twitter @nikmehta33.

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