Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Our first interview is with Yomna, who is also one of the main people behind this project! Others scholars have so accurately captured her strong, captivating spirit:
"Yomna’s full of life and generosity; she’s empowered and therefore empowering; and she is a refreshingly genuine person.”
My name is Yomna Zentani, a Master of Law candidate at the University of Cambridge.
My journey to Cambridge started when I was awarded the Rowan Williams Cambridge Studentship, alongside the AlThuraya Foundation Cambridge Studentship to pursue postgraduate studies.
As a Libyan citizen, my English education was significantly disrupted by the political unrest in my country, which began in 2011.
I then moved to the Republic of Cyprus with my family where I commenced my undergraduate studies in law. Coming from such an area of instability, studying law felt like the right path for me. It gave me a sense of purpose — and it was empowering as my personal experiences formed the basis of my academic interests. Because of that I knew that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree and delve deeper into the law. During the final year of my undergraduate degree, I started to look into fully funded scholarships but unfortunately, there were hardly any scholarships, in the UK or internationally, which fit my profile and were capable of accommodating my circumstances. So I desperately continued to search, worried but hopeful. For a while, though, I felt like an odd puzzle piece trying to find a place where I could fit.
Cambridge was that for me and more.
How did you find out about the Rowan Williams Cambridge Studentship?
Were there people who were pivotal in guiding you in the process?
The day I stumbled upon the Rowan Williams Cambridge Studentship was the second-best day of my life, the first being the day I was officially made a Scholar. I am thankful for the student led campaign CRSC — Cambridge Refugee Student Campaign for sharing the scholarship on their website, which was how I got to find it and meet the incredible students behind the campaign, who assisted me in writing my applications. Despite this campaign being one primarily aimed at refugees, what is unique about this studentship is that it is open to all students from zones of conflict, regardless of whether they are recognized refugees or not. It filled in a gap and allowed students from war-torn backgrounds, who do not have the added legal recognition and support of being a refugee, to apply for funding and access further education. This allowed me to fit the eligibility criteria and make my way to Cambridge.
What’s something that surprised you when you started studying at Cambridge? Expectations vs realities!
What made my time at Cambridge so incredibly special were the people that I got to meet along the way. The sense of community at this place is remarkable and what I truly appreciated was the ability to be a member of so many close-knit communities, all very distinct but equally welcoming — the Law Faculty community, the Cambridge Trust and Rowan Williams community and last but not least, my beloved college Clare Hall’s community.
I genuinely used to think that a place like Cambridge wasn’t for someone like me but I do believe that whoever you are,
if you do manage to make your way to Cambridge, you will find the right kind of people and activities for you or discover new things that you didn’t even think you’d like.
For me, that was rowing! I have never rowed a day in my life and it somehow became a huge part of my Cambridge experience once I became Co-Captain of the Clare Hall Women’s team. I loved being with my team on the water, training with them and having an amazing both on and off the water.
What would you cherish most from your time at Cambridge?
With my time at Cambridge now coming to an end, I am now presented with new challenges, securing work, and planning my next steps. COVID-19 has significantly affected the job market, but one thing I take immense comfort in is knowing that those very communities that welcomed me to Cambridge will be there for guidance, support and a good laugh if I ever need it.
I will always look back on my time at Cambridge with a big smile on my face and a full heart and I am so grateful for the Cambridge Trust and the AlThuraya Foundation for such a memorable experience.
It’s been truly inspiring to see how Yomna pours out her passion to things she cares about. We’ll end this post by echoing how one of the scholars described her!
“Yomna is smart, beautiful, and very hardworking. I have no doubt that she will be a leading lawyer in a few years! Remember us in your kingdom, Yomna!”
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