My experience at Cambridge - Kachi Ginigeme
Kachi Ginigeme (Hughes Hall 2012) shares how a scholarship made studying at Cambridge possible and helped to open doors at leading law firms.
I'm thankful for the amazing alumni I can always call on in any part of the world.
Someone recently said to me that I seemed to be so proud of my Cambridge Master of Law (LLM) degree. Truth is, I am very proud of my LLM and the nine months spent in and around Cambridge remains one of the most exciting times of my life. It has served as a spring-board and pathway to my career growth, family life and extracurricular activities.
Perhaps it means much more to me because Cambridge wasn’t particularly in my consciousness – attending such a prestigious institution did not seem feasible to me. And so, when my fiancé (now husband) encouraged me to apply, I took his enthusiasm with a pinch of salt – until I began to see other candidates with a background like mine from Nigeria, who attended Cambridge with or without a scholarship. I guess Cambridge was open to all, after all.
At that point, I threw myself into the application and search for funding. With two first class law degrees from Nigeria, I was certain that the Cambridge LLM would be an excellent opportunity to build on past academic knowledge and explore new areas.
Applying to Cambridge
I found the application process to be very straightforward. We were required to highlight our motivation for applying to Cambridge and pursuing that course of study. It was also very helpful that the application essays for the Cambridge Trust and Gates Trust scholarship were on the same page as the application form. I applied for both. Finally, an application fee was required – but the good news is that this has now been scrapped for many low-income countries.
One thing that fascinated me during the initial application process was the Collegiate system. I’ll be honest and say it was slightly difficult to wrap my head around it in order to pick a College. But I didn’t have the liberty of choice, and I approached the decision from a practical perspective, applying to those with the potential to provide part or full funding. I wasn’t too fussed as there was a 99% chance that I’d love whichever College I received an offer from.
My admission offer came in a few months after I completed my application. The next and rather huge hurdle was funding. This didn’t seem to be on the horizon and truth be told, I could not afford to self-fund this degree. I received a full scholarship from another university and almost resigned my Cambridge dreams. After what seemed like eternity (and definitely a miracle) I received a fully-funded scholarship from the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust in partnership with the UK Department for International Development. The scholarship covered my tuition, maintenance, round-trip flight tickets and even provided some money for temperate clothing! I’d also received a College offer from Hughes Hall. All the visa and medical checks went smoothly and soon I was set to head out.
The overall learning experience at the Faculty of Law was excellent – the academic staff, the resources, and my fellow students. As expected of a graduate programme, there was a lot of emphasis on self-study, with actual teaching for each module running for about two hours a week. But this in no way limited how much access we had to the professors and they were all eager to help with guidance at any point. It was also the first time I came across open-book examinations - but don’t be fooled, they’re often tougher! Perhaps the most significant aspect of this learning experience was how greatly it improved my critical and analytical reasoning. Compared to my previous educational experiences, the focus here was not so much on your answers, but on the logic, arguments, persuasion and reasoning. And thanks to that, I continuously aim to be critical and logical in my role as a corporate and commercial solicitor.
What has been unquantifiable and will forever be of value, is the exposure, prestige and network that comes from studying at Cambridge. It meant that suddenly people consciously or unconsciously viewed me differently. Having Cambridge at the top of my CV has provided me with a foot in the door of organisations at which I may not have otherwise been welcomed. I went on to obtain a training contract at one of the world’s largest law firms in London and eventually re-qualified as a UK solicitor.
The alumni network
The wide network at Cambridge has been invaluable. I'm thankful for the amazing alumni I can always call on in any part of the world – some of whom have become friends. At Hughes, I played netball for the first time thanks to the team Captain who encouraged me to give it a try. Well, five years later, we’re both new mums to little boys, born a few weeks apart, and have traded netball shots for first-time-mum experiences!
My time in Cambridge stirred in me a genuine desire to give back and encourage people, from similar backgrounds or otherwise, to believe that they can reach higher. Many students, graduates and young professionals, constantly reach out to me having been motivated by my Cambridge story. More proactively, I’m keen to provide a platform that guides secondary school students, graduates and young professionals on certain basics relating to graduate education and global careers.
The Cambridge Career Service, through personal coaching and events like the law fairs, was incredibly beneficial to me at the point at which I was deciding my next steps by providing me with information and guidance that shaped my career. In 2016 another Cambridge alumna from Nigeria and I hosted 20 young professionals to a brunch workshop, focused on CVs and cover letters. Our intention is to develop this into a more sustainable platform.
The Cambridge experience
Finally, Cambridge allowed for an appreciation for genuine cultural diversity. My classmates and College-mates provided international exposure to places I’d never even heard of – from the food, to the thinking, to the culture. Working in the city as a solicitor has made me more aware of the lack of cultural diversity in the UK legal industry. I am passionate about this and inspired to be part of the change process.
In summary, the memories and experiences I have of Cambridge will forever be precious. I have just a few regrets - I wish the experience lasted for a much longer time, I’d attended more formals and the May Ball, I’d networked a lot more, I’d taken more photos and I’d learnt to ride a bike! But overall, I have 99% satisfaction and I wouldn’t miss a beat in recommending the entire experience to anyone.
Kachi obtained a LLM and attended Hughes Hall.
If you would like to submit your own alumni story, send us an email for details of our submission guidelines. This article has been written by Kachi Ginigeme and the opinions expressed are those of the author.