Whenever I meet young women who are movers and shakers, who have a genuine passion for using their kindness, knowledge, and experiences to make a better world, I get inspired and excited. The Chevening Scholars network is chock full of these women, from all around the world. I caught up with one outstanding Chevener from a neighbouring Caribbean Island and I’m very happy to introduce her to you! Her name is Kizanne James.
Kizanne James is a powerhouse. I first became connected to her after being #ChosenForChevening and reaching out to a 2015 Chevening Scholar, Teocah. Teocah created a small group with some newly selected Chevening Scholars and Kizanne and I connected there. Hailing from the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Kizanne is a medical doctor, women’s rights activist and award-winning youth leader. She is a World Contraception Day Ambassador representing Latin America and the Caribbean and one of 200 young persons who are a part of the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Currently, Kizanne is pursuing an MSc. Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care at the University of Southampton. On an important celebratory note, while studying at Southampton this year, Kizanne was awarded the prestigious WISET Award. The award rewards and recognises exceptional contributions of individuals across the university who have worked to raise the profile and participation of women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine, and Mathematics). Clearly, she is a hard worker! This is counter to the stereotype which many people seem to have that people from the Caribbean just laze around on the beach and drink coconuts all day. In response, Kizanne says, “Yes, we do this sometimes, but we are also very hard-working and have made great contributions to the world even though we are small in number.”
We spoke a little bit about Trinidad and Tobago.
What’s the local language in your country?
What’s the culture like in your country, and would you describe it as being diverse?
Our culture in Trinidad and Tobago is warm and inviting. We celebrate all religions and ethnicities; in fact, we probably have a public holiday representing each one. We are colourful and creative, this can be clearly seen in our music, food and festivities. It is an enjoyable place to visit, the many cultures represented there creates an opportunity for something new to learn and explore.
What’s the most popular food, music, and dance in Trinidad and Tobago?
I might be biased in my answer but the most popular food is probably roti, coincidentally it happens to be my favorite food. It is curried channa or chick peas, potatoes, and curried meat wrapped in a savory dough. You can have pumpkin or cooked mango added as well, with pepper if you like spicy foods. You can have this with coconut water or the traditional “Red Solo”, which is a local carbonated drink.
For music we have Calypso and Soca, mostly played around Carnival time. Carnival is a huge street festival in Trinidad, usually held at the beginning of the year. Our dance arguably would be “wining”, it’s dominantly a movement at the hips and waist.
If I visit your country what’s one place you would tell me to visit and why?
Trinidad & Tobago is great for the outdoors we have some exceptional places to explore, for example, the Pitch Lake and the Nylon pool. A must see, the Pitch Lake is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world! The Nylon Pool is a shallow sand bank, about a meter in depth in the ocean, off the island of Tobago. Generally, there is a lot of natural beauty to see on our tropical islands.
Let’s now talk about your Chevening Journey. How has it been for you?
It has been amazing and I have grown so much from this journey. I have met persons from around the world and have made lasting friendships. It has been great exploring British culture, I tried “Fish and Chips” and had “afternoon tea”. I am also enjoying my studies and my university.
How did you feel when you first received the #ChosenforChevening email?
Words cannot describe how excited I was, especially when I found out I scored the highest in my country. I was overjoyed to be starting this new journey knowing my life wouldn’t be the same after this experience.
New Chevening scholars have been selected for 2017. What tip would you give them for choosing a school?
I would say, keep in mind your future career path and what you would like to gain out of the experience. Read as much as you can about the university and city. Find out the methods of evaluation the program uses, for example, if it is exam based or essay based, and choose what would be best for you. Make sure the program you have selected and your dreams align, then you would truly enjoy learning.
I chose my university because it is part of the Russell group of universities and it scored highly in student rankings for student support and satisfaction. It also offered a program that aligned with my career goals and that I thought would challenge me academically.
I’ve always had a passion for leadership and health care. I grew up in a humble background and was fully dependent on the public health care system, which has its many challenges. My hope is that this degree would help me to contribute to developing health care in my country especially for the poor and marginalized, those who need it the most. My end goal is to then work on a global scale for the World Health Organization or the United Nations.
What 3 tips would you give the new scholars as they prepare to leave for a year?
- Be open to new experiences. Explore the UK, try new things and meet persons from different cultures, it will be the most fulfilling thing you have ever done.
- Bring a token from home, whether it be your national flag or pictures of family and friends. It will make you feel better when you are homesick.
- Volunteer, look for opportunities online and apply even before leaving home. Wherever you are in the world, be someone who gives to those in need.
Thanks for sharing with me Kizanne. Congratulations on your outstanding achievements to date, and we hope you will continue to be a beacon of Caribbean youth excellence! I hope the new Chevening Scholars will find your tips useful, and that many others will want to visit beautiful Trinidad & Tobago.