“I got a platform to brainstorm with bright minds, share and exchange ideas, and network with future leaders from various countries.”

Zarifa Behbudzada, previous SI scholarship holder from Azerbaijani. She completed her master’s degree in European Affairs at Lund University, in June 2020. This is her story:
Zarifa Behbudzada in front of a lake

What were you doing when you applied for the scholarship?

While applying for SI Scholarship, I was a senior student at ADA University, majoring in the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. At the same time, I worked at Azerbaijan Anti-Corruption Academy, a non-governmental organization launched to promote the role and potential of education to prevent corruption.

Why did you want to pursue a master’s degree in Sweden?

I had been qualified with Erasmus+ scholarship to study at the National University of Public Service in Budapest for the spring semester of 2017, which allowed me to meet young leaders from various countries, work in multicultural teams, and broaden my perspective. I realised my potential and decided to pursue a master’s degree abroad. I chose Sweden in particular, as Sweden has a long history of academic excellence and of encouraging independent and critical thinking.

What has the scholarship offer meant to you?

Besides receiving high-quality education at Lund University, I got a platform to brainstorm with bright minds, share and exchange ideas, and network with future leaders from various countries. Living in Sweden also influenced my personal development in terms of understanding the importance of sustainable development and adapting the Swedish culture of environmentally friendly practices.

In your opinion, what are the most valuable opportunities the scholarship provides?

SI Network for Future Global Leaders and SI Alumni Network provide a platform for networking, communication and organising events for ambitious leaders during and after their studies in Sweden. At the beginning of the academic term, we receive access to the SI calendar, which incorporates different activities such as study visits, workshops, topic-specific seminars, and conferences. SI Scholarship holders are usually entitled to receive full or partial covered reimbursement for their travel costs to participate in the events in different cities.

If you had to choose one thing that you like about your time in Sweden, what would that be?

During the autumn semester 2019, I had a chance to do an internship at the Embassy and EU Mission of Azerbaijan in Brussels as well as George C. Marshall Centre in Germany, as an integral part of my studies at Lund University. These internships provided a chance for me to bridge my theoretical knowledge to practice, engage in the work environment, and connect to relevant people.

SI scholars are allowed to study abroad (exchange studies/field studies/internship, etc.) for a short period and still receive their monthly scholarship, providing that this experience constitutes a complementary part of their studies in Sweden.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

After my studies in Sweden, I would like to return to my country and begin my career at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Being a diplomat, I would like to contribute to fruitful cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU countries and ensure that Azerbaijan can learn from the best practice of Western countries in the domain of democracy, transparency, as well as environmentally friendly practices. I would also like to promote civil engagement through public-open events, social projects, and training sessions. Particularly, I am excited to share my knowledge about green practice of Sweden in terms of use of renewable energy sources and low carbon dioxide emissions, as well as social and governance practices.

Why should others apply for SI scholarships?

If you want to change the society, then you need to be the change in the society. After your studies in Sweden, where non-hierarchical and self-directed learning is emphasised, you will see a different dimension of personal and academic growth.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of applying for SI scholarships?

When applying for a master’s program and SI Scholarship, have a clear vision of how you can contribute to your society, region, and globally if you are given this opportunity.

When studying in Sweden, be receptive to new information. Seize every day to learn something new about your related studies, along with exploring Swedish culture, cuisine, and language. When you are done with your studies, share your acquired knowledge and motivate more people to seek self-improvement.

Find out more about the SI scholarships.