In the Classroom: Commonwealth Scholar Gordon Brown
It takes academic talent, time and persistence to land one of the coveted Commonwealth Scholarships awarded annually for study in the UK.
Engineer Gordon Brown has what it took to get there. Moving to another country to take up his scholarship proved to be not only an academically enriching step but turned out to be a real eye-opener as well.
Gordon shares with us a little bit of what his experience as a Commonwealth scholar in the UK was like.
Describe how it felt when you learned you’d been awarded the scholarship.
Surreal, elated and overwhelmed. Thankful to God. I was on the verge of tears but had to hold it together as I was in a public space.
What high school did you go to?
Where did you study while in the UK?
Imperial College London.
What did you study?
MSC in Environmental Engineering.
Was this something you’ve always wanted to study?
When I graduated from the University of the West Indies in 2012, with a BSc in Civil Engineering – no. I initially planned to specialise in Structural Engineering since I had performed really well in those modules. However, after some work experience and further thoughts, I decided to pursue Environmental Engineering instead.
What customs/habits in England did you find the most peculiar/hard to adapt to?
Obsession with tea and betting. Being asked if I wanted ice in my drinks in the middle of winter. Being invited to outdoor activities in the middle of winter.
What was the biggest challenge about your time abroad?
Being on my own in a foreign country while pursuing an intensive degree. This was made a bit more difficult by the time difference between the UK and the Caribbean.
Did you connect with members of the diaspora while there?
Yes. My school was right next to the Jamaican High Commission so I got pretty involved in diaspora activities.
Were you able to find good Jamaican food?
Yes, there are many areas in London with a big West Indian influence.
How has this experience changed your worldview?
It has helped to bring to light issues experienced in other areas of the globe. Though we complain about our situation in Jamaica, in many cases we are much better off than in other places. Also, the international nature of the city and the school was a real eye-opener to a variety of cultures. Though we tend to complain about how ignorant foreigners may sometimes be about the Caribbean, you realise the same also applies to you with respect to other geographical areas. You have to be cautious about what you say and be willing to learn.
What did you miss most about life in Jamaica?
Family, sunshine, year-round warmth, and jerk pork.
What did you enjoy most about your experience?
The personal and academic growth I experienced. Seeing God’s hand in every aspect of my time in the UK no matter how challenging it was. Also, the connections made with colleagues and friends.
What are your plans now?
Return to my job in Jamaica, serve the scholarship bond and see where things go from there. Pursue voluntary activities outside of work where I can utilise more material learned during the degree. I am not fond of school but based off a multitude of recommendations I have now decided to leave the option of possibly pursuing a PhD in the future open.
What advice would you give other aspiring scholars?
Work hard. Aim to be a team to share with others. Pure competition, selfishness, and always looking to come out on top may not be of benefit to the wider community.
Where would you like to see Jamaica in 50 years?
Increased water and sanitation coverage island-wide, improved solid waste management. Less crime, less debt, all children being provided with the opportunity to learn and have a source of good mentorship.