Interview with Fortune Lesi: 2021 Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholar

Fortune is a 2021 recipient of the Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where she is pursuing a Masters degree in Management and Strategy. Originally from Nigeria, Fortune graduated with a First Class degree in Economics from Covenant University.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a very lively person with a great sense of humor. I also love to play around with numbers.


How did you hear about the Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship?

During my application to LSE, I did a lot of research and found out my course of interest had funding available; one of which was the Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship.


Was LSE your first choice of school?

Yes, it was!


How did you find the application process of your LSE program?

I found it to be very clear and straightforward. I took the IELTS and the GMAT because it was one of the admission requirements.


Did you apply to any other schools aside from LSE?

I applied to only 2 others; Imperial College London and London Business School.


Did you also get an offer of admission into the aforementioned schools?

I actually didn’t and I strongly believe it was because my personal statement was not as focused as compared to what I submitted for LSE.


Why LSE?

I’ll say coming to LSE has been a full circle moment for me because I’ve always wanted to study here since Secondary School once I decided to pursue Economics. In Secondary School, I transitioned from being a Science student to a Commercial student (fun fact). During that time, I was looking for the best school to study Economics in the world, and I came across LSE as one of the highly ranked schools in the field. The high cost of tuition made it impossible for me to pursue my first degree at LSE, but I had always desired to pursue an LSE education and I believe that motivation and the Grace of God is what’s finally led me here.


Was it through research that you first found out about LSE?

It was my dad who first mentioned LSE to me. Initially, he thought I was going to study science to be an engineer, but when I decided to switch to economics, we did have a ‘conversation’. He was the one who planted the seed in my head about pursuing an LSE education and I’ve been obsessed about attending the school since then.

At the time of applying to your program of interest, were you confident of being selected as a scholarship recipient?

Honestly, I wasn't! I applied very late , well after I got my admission, although I could have applied at the time I was submitting my program application. Chances of getting into LSE are slim as it is a very competitive institution, so I didn’t think about funding until after I had been admitted. With only 3 slots available for the Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship, I wouldn’t say I was confident of being selected as a scholarship recipient.

When and how did you find out about being selected as a scholarship recipient?

I had started looking into the visa process and sources of funding, when I randomly checked my junk folder one day in July and saw the scholarship letter in there. Apparently, it had been in my junk mail for 2 weeks before I came across it.


How do you feel about being awarded the scholarship?

I love being a scholarship recipient. There’s an amazing network of alumnus that you’re able to count on for support. The scholarship team is really invested in the success of each recipient. Also, we had an exclusive dinner last November, where past scholarship recipients and the Chairman of Standard Bank Africa were present.


Why did you decide to pursue a Masters degree in Management and Strategy?

The program I’m enrolled in looks at management from an economic perspective, which is a fine balance between game theory and calculations, and therein lies my interest.


Where did you develop your love for numbers?

I had a Mathematics teacher, who was my first female Mathematics teacher when I was in my 4th grade in primary school and she did a good job in leaving a lasting impression. You’ll often hear this saying but ‘Representation really does matter.’ I also had a great Economics teacher in secondary school, whom I’m still very much in touch with, and he helped me develop a high interest in the subject.


Prior to attending LSE, had you traveled outside of Nigeria?

I had visited the USA in the past.


Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in the UK?

I had done a thorough research about almost everything I needed to know prior to my arrival, so I wouldn’t say I experienced much of a culture shock. However, I feel a lot of people in the UK speak a lot faster in person than I had seen on TV.

How are you finding London as a place to study and live?

It’s really cold, and the weather is erratic. Just recently, I experienced all 4 seasons in 30 minutes and that was pretty wild…lol. Aside from the weather, I love living in London, I appreciate the organized transportation, I thoroughly enjoy exploring the attraction sites, etc..


What has been the highlight of your experience at LSE so far?

There have been so many highlights, including the amazingly intelligent people I’ve met and the new friendships formed.


How would you compare the Nigerian educational system to that of what you’ve experienced so far in the UK?

I can only speak on the schools I’ve attended since what I say might not hold for all schools, but broadly speaking, I find that in Nigeria, emphasis is placed more on retaining and regurgitating information as opposed to LSE, where it’s heavily focused on critical thinking, reasoning, and analysis.


How have you changed as a person since your arrival at LSE?

LSE is very rigorous, and there’s a lot to learn. Fundamentally, I’ve had a mindset shift and I’ve become a more disciplined person. The academic environment can be somewhat demanding with a high workload due in a short amount of time. There have been times where I’ve had a breakdown, but in the long run, I do realize that although the experience may be challenging, it is also equally rewarding.


How do you keep your mental health in check during times where you experience a breakdown?

As a Christian, I resort to prayer. I also call friends and family and just talk, and LSE also has a support center for students who need help.


Was it intentional to wait ~about 2 years after completing your first degree to pursue your masters education?

There is a compulsory 1 year service (i.e. NYSC) in Nigeria that I had to do after my first degree in 2018 and then came the pandemic afterwards. I didn’t want to be in school during a pandemic so I just decided to apply for the 2021 admission season.

Would you recommend LSE to prospective students?

Of Course, I definitely would! I’m currently a student ambassador so part of my work is promoting LSE to prospective students which I enjoy. LSE is a great school with bright minds ,amazing lecturers and countless opportunities, so one just needs to come prepared for school and they’ll be sure to have a good time.


What advice would you give to prospective students interested in being selected for this scholarship opportunity?

Good grades obviously help, but I’ll advise prospective students to focus greatly on their personal statement as that’s their major selling point.

Is there anything you would want your scholarship donor(s) to know if they came across this post?

I would want the donor(s) to know I’m extremely grateful and thankful for this life changing and shifting opportunity. I’m truly honored to be selected as one of the recipients of this distinguished scholarship and I look forward to working with the Standard Bank Africa team in any capacity in the future. Thank you again!


The Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship at The London School of Economics and Political Science supports academically gifted students who do not have the financial means to pursue further studies of this nature. The successful candidates will need to demonstrate a combination of exceptional academic merit and financial need. For more information on this scholarship opportunity, visit here.