The Scholarship to Study in the U.K.
Just after graduated as an Economist, I applied through an ad on the local press in Caracas to obtain one of the scholarships to follow postgraduate studies in foreign Universities, being offered by the “Fundacion Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho”.
The Venezuelan Government thus wanted to invest on its people, part of the oil resources held by the “Venezuela’s Investment Fund”, by sending numerous young people to study abroad to the world’s best Universities.
In one of the three interviews that I sustained with the Fundación’s personnel, I was asked if I would go to study to England, to what I just said that I’d go there without any problem.
The truth was that my first option had always been the USA, but fearful of not receiving the scholarship if I refused to go to Europe, I answered that way.
Eventually, I obtained the scholarship, so initially in the company only of other students (My wife and son would join me later), I prepared myself to cross once again the Atlantic going to Europe, only that this time I traveled by plane.
The scholarship was very generous, as it covered the return air tickets to London of my wife and son, as well as mine, the cost of up to a year of intensive English language studies, up to two years of the very high (for
foreigners) University tuition costs, the cost of all books, and a generous monthly stipend for our living expenses, during the three years we spent in the U.K.
In exchange, the Government of Venezuela only asked us for good marks in our previous University’s studies (a minimum average of at least 80% or 16/20), and for the signing of a contract, by which we agreed to return to the country, and to put ourselves at the Venezuelan Government’s disposal for a period of 5 years, if we so were required at the end of our studies abroad.
With the contract signed, I then traveled to the U.K. in the company of three other students, and I first studied English in the city of Manchester, located in England’s North.
We had classes some 7 hours a day, mornings and afternoons, five days a week, and the course lasted 6½ months, at the end of which I wrote with good English orthography, as the course was designed to attend University.
At the end of the course, we seated for — and approved with an “A”— the Cambridge First Certificate of English, an exam whose approval was required for foreign students by all Universities in the United Kingdom.
As the scholarship was for three years, and I had committed to obtaining a Master’s degree in Business Administration, MBA, as that Master is universally known, I had the option of doing the MBA in 12 intensive months, instead of the more traditional two academic years.
Thus, I took a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing offered by Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, Scotland, and upon its completion, I’d follow a 12 month intensive MBA course at Cranfield University, in Cranfield, Milton Keynes, England.
For a while in my first days in England, I was alone, with my wife and son still in Caracas.
I then stayed with an English family, the Mort, in a two stories, modern house, located in a new neighborhood in Cheadle, a suburb of Manchester.
Three months later or so, my family arrived from Caracas, so I rented a nice furnished house in another suburb, Cheadle Hulme, also close to Manchester.
A month before finishing the English course, I jumped into my car (I had purchased a white Renault, a second-hand car, but with very few miles) and took the M1 motorway, which crosses the British island from North to South, aiming North and ending in Scotland.
I had been admitted to the Marketing course at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, but needed to find and rent a furnished house to accommodate my family.
Contrary to what I’d expected, it wasn’t easy to find and rent a furnished house in Glasgow (It’d been very easy in Manchester), so I decided to live, meanwhile, as a boarder in a student residence near Glasgow.
There I met Stanley, a Polish old man some 70 years old, of total white hair, with certain illness (Possibly Parkinson) that made him tremble, and who walked with some difficulty, married to Morag, Scottish woman on her late 60’s, who acted as the administrator of the residence.
I lived there for approximately three months, while I looked for a house to rent, playing chess with Stanley almost daily, and not being able to beat him, not even once, at that game during the time I spent there.
In that house, I experienced a lot of bitter freezing cold, for it was a big old house and the rooms didn’t have central heating, but instead, on each room, they lighted a wood fire at night in a fireplace that every room had.
Of course, the bathroom didn’t have any heating at all, so I did like everyone else there, and took a bath once a week, on weekends, when I went to see my family in my house at Cheadle Hulme. The rest of the time, I had simple “towel baths” with a wet towel, as it was bitterly cold in there.
Eventually, I rented a small furnished house on East Kilbride, a suburb located roughly ½ an hour by train from Glasgow’s city center, where Strathclyde University was located, and then I brought my family to live with me in the house.
I used to leave my car in the train station’s parking lot, and later take the train to Glasgow, as many people over there did.
I remember that in a winter’s day particularly cold, I got out of the train and wasn’t able to open the car as I did every time.
After many tries, I was already thinking that someone had done something to my car’s lock, when a neighbor seeing my troubles, told me that if I couldn’t open the car, it was probably because the bitter cold had frozen the car’s
door’s lock, that I should pee on it, that the heat would surely allow me to open the car’s door.
Without further talk, I opened my pants’ zip fly and peed on the lock, being able after a short while to open the door of the car!
In another occasion, I had breakfast in the kitchen and was about to leave as usual to take the train, when I couldn’t open from inside the house the metal door of the house’s garage, as I always did, where I used to park the car at night, so I went outside only to see that more than 40 inches of snow had fallen during the night blocking the garage’s door!
Therefore, that time I had to walk to the train station, and when I came back in the afternoon, I cleared the snow from my doorstep, the garage’s door, and from the driveway with a shovel.