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SKN Chevening Scholars – Sonia Boddie-Thompson

by Stephanie Koathes Sep 30, 2019

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As the 2019 recipients of the Chevening scholarship prepare for their life-changing experience abroad, Yello SKN is looking back on some of our past scholars.

We caught up with 2011 scholarship winner Sonia Boddie-Thompson, who has been doing exceptional things since returning to the island from the UK. Sonia is the Leader of the Chevening Alumni Association of St Kitts and Nevis.

Describe how it felt when you learned you had been were awarded the scholarship.

I was elated, grateful, shocked, and humbled. I felt it was indeed a blessing from God, as my childhood dream of travelling to and studying in the United Kingdom, was now going to become a reality.

Where in SKN are you from?

I hail from the village of Tabernacle.

What high school did you attend?

Cayon High School.

Where did you study while in the UK?

At the University of Birmingham.

What did you study?

I did an MSc in Public Administration.

What was the biggest challenge during your time abroad?

Coping with the unpredictable British weather. Surviving the cold temperatures was a major challenge.

What was the most difficult cultural difference to adjust to?

I had to grow to understand and appreciate that people were more likely to project happiness, communicate, and be courteous during warm weather, rather than cold weather.

Did you connect with members of the diaspora while there?

Only family.

How has this experience changed your world view? 

Studying in a very multicultural environment has certainly expanded my outlook on the world. I am now more eager to travel to far-flung countries to explore their cultures and learn more about their history and their economies. The experience has certainly made me more culturally adept.

What did you miss most about life in SKN?

I missed the year-round summer weather, the warmth of the people and our local cuisine.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?

I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to study in a country with a highly respected world-class education system. I loved learning in a truly multicultural environment and having the opportunity to be part of the Global Chevening Network.

Having the opportunity to represent my school at the Harvard Model United Nations debate in Boston, USA was amazing, as was travelling throughout England, Scotland, Belgium, France, and Germany.

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

I returned to St Kitts in December 2012, and I can undoubtedly say my Chevening education has positively impacted my life. Upon returning to my previous place of employment, the Inland Revenue Department, I received several promotions between 2013 and 2015.

I was also selected to serve as the CARICOM Youth Ambassador for my country in 2013. I served the youth and the region with distinction until 2015 as an advocate for issues impacting young people.

In 2014, I launched the Sonia Boddie Promising Youth Leader Scholarship. To date, 15 students have benefitted from receiving the necessary school supplies to make the transition to secondary school easier for themselves and their families.

In 2014, I was also asked by the British High Commission in Barbados to serve as leader of the Chevening Alumni of St Kitts and Nevis, a position I still hold. I have spearheaded several successful activities aimed at supporting the national development agenda.

Additionally, in 2015, I was finally able to fulfil another dream. I secured a job transfer to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aviation. In this ministry, the skills and knowledge acquired during my BSc in International Relations and my Master’s course on Diplomacy and Statecraft could be put into practice.

In 2016, I was appointed Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, and in 2017 I was appointed Clerk of the National Assembly. These positions provided me with the ideal opportunity to immerse myself in an environment I had extensively researched while writing my dissertation.

Today, I wear two professional hats. The first, as Clerk of the National Assembly of St Kitts and Nevis, and the second as Foreign Service Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aviation. I am the first official to carry out these key functions simultaneously. In my capacity as a Foreign Service Officer, I am at the forefront of developing and executing foreign policy. As Clerk of the National Assembly, I play a critical role in the enactment of legislation.

I am the first woman to hold the post of Clerk of the National Assembly in my country. I am also currently the youngest clerk in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region.

I plan to continue serving the people of this great nation with distinction, in whatever capacity I am called to serve.

What advice would you give other aspiring scholars?

Do not rush the completion of your application. It is important to spend adequate time researching your area of study, the schools you wish to enrol in and the UK. Ensure that your answers are exceptionally well-crafted so that your application is competitive and stands out from the crowd.

Also, I strongly suggest potential applicants seek advice from previous scholars, as they would have first-hand knowledge of the process and the expectations of the Chevening authorities.

It is also important to have a learned, trusted individual review your documents before submission. Additionally, choose people who can speak volumes about you, and who are of sound character and influence as your references.

Finally, prepare thoroughly for your interview, ensuring that you can speak confidently on key topics such as leadership, networking, and career plans.

Where would you like to see SKN in 50 years?

I would like to see St Kitts and Nevis standing tall as the envy of the region. I want to see the country progressing as an economic powerhouse, with lots of opportunities for socio-economic advancement for all who call the Federation home.

What is your favourite traditional dish?

I like black pudding. I grew up helping my grandmother make it, so she could sell and earn additional income to put food on the table for our family.

Your personal motto.

“I am happy when I receive, but I am even happier when I can give back.”

Describe SKN in three words.

Progressive, promising, beautiful.