A recent reception drew 50 people, mostly current and former students, to the Governor’s House to mingle and network, joined by Premier Alden McLaughlin, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Minister of Education Tara Rivers.
The reception was the first of its kind for many of the attendees, and only the second for Cayman Connection UK, a 200-member organization combining the efforts and roster of the Cayman Islands London Office and “Friends of Cayman,” a U.K.-based club chaired by former Governor John Owen.
The Aug. 14 gathering – sponsored by law firm Mourant Ozannes – brought together a network of students planning to attend university in the U.K., students already studying there, affiliated professionals and politicians.
Mourant Partner Hector Robinson delivered the welcoming speech, followed by addresses from Mr. Manderson and Cayman student ambassadors Melanie Ebanks and Donovon Kellyman, who described the confidence gained by meeting other Caymanians at U.K. universities and the help provided by the two London organizations.
Student ambassador Whitney General, a fourth-year student in medicine at the University of Bristol, said the evening proved successful, offering a chance to mix with old friends and newcomers.
“I spoke to quite a few new students who asked about a lot of general things,” she said, “and it was a good evening. I didn’t know a lot of the people from here, but it’s really good to know who the other Caymanians are.”
Ms. General said she was the only Caymanian at her university.
“Often, you are the only person at your school, so it’s good to meet others, to know you’re not really alone. You can hear the accents and share experiences.”
CCUK’s Facebook page remains a vital link for the students, enabling new arrivals in London to contact others already present, seeking advice, reassurance and friendship.
“We try to get personal experiences from everyone,” said Kate Kandiah, among the founders of CCUK, and formerly part of the Department of Tourism London Office and staffer at the official Cayman Islands Government Office.
“We had a good cross section of people at the reception – old students, new students, a lot of interaction. I met a lot of people who are going over there.
“No one got any fabulous jobs – not yet, but we were very happy with the way it all went,” she said.
Ms. Kandiah said she was “extremely grateful” for the support of the Governor’s Office, the Cayman government, Friends of Cayman and the private sector.
“This network not only helps the students when they are far from home,” she said, “but also spreads positive endorsements of the Cayman Islands in the international arena from a wide group of people who are proud of, and passionate about, their homeland.”