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SKN Chevening Scholars – Dillon Webbe

by Stephanie Koathes Jan 13, 2020

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2020 is a new year, a new decade, full of new life-changing possibilities including the Chevening scholarship. As budding scholars think about the next round of applications for Chevening opening in August, Yello SKN is looking back on some of our past scholars.

We caught up with 2018 scholarship winner Dillon Webbe, who has big dreams for St Kitts and Nevis’ renewable energy future.

Describe how it felt when you learned you had been successful in your application.

I received my scholarship in 2018, having been placed on reserve the previous year. When I received the email, I read it aloud so that my wife and I could share the experience. At first, she was nervous, but I was calm. When we realised, I had been offered the scholarship, her nerves and my tranquillity transformed to joy and gratitude, which we shared with close friends and family. Joy then quickly turned to planning and conversation concerning our transition to the UK.

Where in SKN are you from?

Raised in Camps Estate. I am currently living in Cole Hill, Nevis.

What high school did you attend?

Charlestown Secondary School.

Where did you study while in the UK?

I studied at University College London, better known as UCL.

What did you study?

I undertook the Environmental and Engineering Design programme, which has been running for the past 40 years. This is “a world-leading programme that offers knowledge and expertise for designing energy-efficient and sustainable buildings to tackle today’s critical issues surrounding the built environment.”

Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

What was the biggest challenge during your time abroad?

I suppose the biggest challenge was balancing my studies and taking care of my wife and baby, who was born in the UK. The unspeakable joy of having your first child has no equal, and I enjoyed the experience and the process. However, I wouldn’t recommend pursuing a master’s degree while also having your first child. There were times when I held the newborn in my lap, while my wife told me what to write for the research I was undertaking! My university department was quite supportive, however, and gave me extra time surrounding the birth of the baby.

What was the most difficult cultural difference that you had to adjust to?

Generally speaking, I am an easy-going person with little that bothers me, but I was quite annoyed at the number of persons who smoke on the street. The smell troubles my sinuses, so this took some getting used to.

Did you connect with members of the diaspora while there?

I was able to meet with the folks at the High Commission (shout outs to Earla and Elsa) and attended a few of the Young Professional’s meetings. I would encourage others from the country to visit them, especially if you are heading to the UK for a long-term arrangement. While visiting Tulse Hill, I inadvertently met a barber whom I discovered through conversation was from Nevis, some of whose relatives my wife knows. That was quite special. And I met the daughter of one of the well-known Nevisian metal workers in Westfield Mall, Stratford.

EC and Barbados Scholars Chevening Farewell

How has this experience changed your world view?

I think the experience reinforced a previously held perspective. Through various experiences and opportunities, I have been able to travel to a few places in the Caribbean, and a few internationally, and one thing remains the same. No matter where you go if your values are consistent and authentic, you will be able to negotiate your way through your current experience. One other thing that came up during my experience was keeping an acute awareness and compassion for all people in various places in the world. For some, just because of their parent’s physical location, were born and raised in circumstances where they cannot access the resources and opportunities that we have. Some don’t have things like electricity or water that we sometimes take for granted, and rage about on social media and other outlets. We must ever remain thankful and help others whenever we can.

What did you miss most about life in SKN?

Having lived in the UK with its ever-transient weather, a classic answer could be the always summerlike conditions we have year-round. But beyond that, I missed the members of Legacy International, the faith-based organisation that I am honoured to be a part of. The common cause of holistic human development that keeps driving us forward is a process that I am looking forward to reintegrating myself into.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?

This is a tough question. The exposure to the world-class learning and research skills at UCL is something I am certain I will draw from again and again. If I had to pick one thing, I would say seeing my first-born grow and develop. Seeing her joyful spirit, her growing tenacity, her first crawl, her radiant smile, are things that money can’t buy. Raising her along with my phenomenal wife as we build our marriage together has been most rewarding.

A family visit to The Shard in London.

What are your plans, and how has your Chevening education impacted your life?

One of the things I have come to appreciate is the truth that “the greatest resource any place has is its people.” I have been exposed to a world-class educational experience, alongside many Chevening events on leadership in various parts of the UK. Nevertheless, the marrying of this experience with the wealth of physical and human resources in St Kitts and Nevis is key to producing a mutually beneficial result. I intend to apply what I learned about healthy and sustainable buildings to make small improvements to our society, from the individual to the systems that contribute to our national energy footprint. I hope to work along with young people who are the future of our country. I want to teach them how we can best utilise our resources so that we are less reliant on fossil fuels and more conservative in our daily energy consumption.

What advice would you give other aspiring scholars?

The ball is in your court. Don’t be afraid to smash it out of the park. To quote Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” If you are convinced that the timing is right, apply the force necessary to bring about the reaction you are hoping for, and make another step towards fulfilling the purpose for your life. More practically, you can connect with the St Kitts and Nevis Chevening alumni, who are at this very moment discussing ways in which we can support and mentor those aspiring to pursue education abroad.

At Oxford University.

Where would you like to see SKN in 50 years?

Interestingly, one of my projects involved a 50-year projection of how St Kitts and Nevis can integrate sustainable energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind into our energy grid. So, I hope we can be completely free of fossil fuels as our electricity source. I also dream of a St Kitts and Nevis where both islands are connected by a bridge of some sorts. Some might say that I am dreaming, but my wife always reminds me that dreams are free. So I continue to dream.

What is your favourite traditional dish?

Cook up with pork, please.

What is your personal motto?

“There must be a way forward.”

Describe SKN in three words.

Tenacious, resourceful, unspoilt.

For more of SKN’s amazing scholars, check out our interview with Sonia Boddie-Thomson.