My year as a Chevening scholar

Our latest blog entry is by Sam Cockwell, a 2012 Chevening Scholar from the Falkland Islands. If you are a Chevening scholar and are interested in submitting a blog entry for the Chevening Conversations blog, then please email us at fcoscholarships@fco.gov.uk.

I’m lucky enough to be studying at Imperial College London, reading a Masters in Petroleum Engineering, something the Chevening Scholarship has made possible.

As the first Chevening Scholar from the Falkland Islands I think it’s fair to say that the path that brought me to the scholarship isn’t typical, but I’ve found it fascinating.

Sam Cockwell outside Imperial College London.

Sam Cockwell outside Imperial College London.

Just two and a half years ago I was coming to the end of a conservation project involving conflict management in the Falklands, wondering if I wanted to remain in conservation science, and where my BSc in Environmental Science might take me.

Then I spotted a job advertised by the Falkland Islands Government, in its department responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry, which was then still in its exploratory phase and before the discovery of the first oil field in the North Falkland Basin, dubbed Sea Lion.

It was and remains a hugely exciting time to be involved in the oil and gas industry, especially in the Falkland Islands. I worked for the department for two years, focusing largely on environmental regulation but also in a more general regulatory and industry development role.

My interest grew in the technical process of developing an oil field and I decided that I wanted to move into the industry side of the development of the first Falkland Islands oil field. The best and most effective way to do this was to return to university for an MSc in Petroleum Engineering.

I was lucky enough to be offered a place at Imperial College, one of the finest engineering schools, not only in the UK but in the world.

I really didn’t think that the Chevening programme would be interested in my situation, as I believed it tended to support Masters studies which focused on international politics. But, having learned more about the goals of the scholarship, I started to look at it as a serious option; Chevening’s support of the development of a country through the education of young people in subjects key to that country is superb.

Likewise the support from Government House in the Falklands was fantastic; they provided me with great feedback and support throughout the application and acceptance processes.

So I moved to London in September. It was difficult to leave home again after being back for what felt like such a short time, after nearly eight years away at college and university. But it was the right choice – it’s only through gripping opportunities like this that you can really experience something new and exciting. And London certainly is exciting.

Through Chevening I’ve attended events in which we’ve discussed how we can change the approach of the G20 toward the environment and global governance and how as future leaders we approach the key issues facing the world, such as global food security, arguably one of the most crucial challenges that we will continue to face in the coming decades.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet the likes of David Cameron, William Hague and Hugo Swire.

Those who know of my interest in dining and food will not be surprised that I have had an amazing culinary time in London – it has been gastronomic, quite often in the company of my fellow Scholars.

These guys and girls from all over the globe are a fascinating and always warm and welcoming group of people. We are all highly driven, and this can lead to some intense discussions when our points of view differ strongly.

Not that it descends into argument; for example, I have frequent discussions with a scholar from Argentina and there is an obvious difference in political stance between us. However while we retain our differences in opinion, we do hear each other out and, through that, develop understanding. And in the end isn’t that the only way to work through any disagreement?

I think so, and I believe this is one of the great strengths of the scholarship – through this kind of understanding and discussion the network of people you develop is outstanding.

In all honestly, it has been tough studying for a Masters degree – sometimes the work load has been intense to the point of desperation – but I can confidently say that these times do pass and I am stronger for experiencing them.

Imperial College certainly puts you through some tough times when you are here and I’m almost certain it’s the same everywhere. However, that being said it hasn’t been all hard work, there have been times of great fun, and I have forged friendships here that will last forever.

Looking to the future, I am joining Premier Oil in October as a graduate drilling engineer. This company owns the rights to develop the Sea Lion field in the Falklands, so my goal of being involved in the Falklands’ first oil development seems to be coming to fruition. I have no doubt that being a Chevening scholar helped me toward being offered this role.

It is continues to be my prime priority to work on the development of the Falkland Islands, not only in Oil and Gas, but in the continued sustainable development of my small nation in the future. The Falklands is, in my view, the most amazing place and we have an incredibly exciting time ahead of us.

The challenges will certainly be interesting but the opportunities are enormous and I am certain that we will make the best of them.

As a final word, I would urge anyone in the Falklands who is considering heading back to university for a Masters to go for it. Give Government House a call and find out more about the Chevening Scholarship – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

3 Responses

  1. Elyas says:

    Very inspiring. I see a sustainable career for him.

  2. Abiodun Ogundipe says:

    That is great! Wish you more success.

  3. dr. david seddon says:

    hope that Sam will contribute to a better understanding with Argentina and eventual joint development of the region’s resources.

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