Maria Olejnik

UCL - Arts & Humanities
The Spanish victory at Breda in the eyes of Velázquez and Calderón de la Barca
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It has exceeded my expectations. I really had no idea the leadership aspect of it would be so exciting. The workshops: I learned so much from them, and that was a big surprise. That was a big positive surprise.

As it was the first year that the programme had been run at UCL, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there would be a lot of hard, but satisfactory work.


The scholarship exceeded my expectations, the leadership component of the scheme in particular. Apart from providing valuable knowledge about leadership, it gave us an opportunity to get to know the fellow scholars.

Apart from providing candidates with information about the application process and the programme in general, I share my experience with the newly chosen scholars, hoping that that will help them benefit from the scheme even more than I did. At this stage I am still keeping an open mind, I am considering a Masters then PHD with the option of staying at university and doing more research, but I also think about a career in translations or acting.

What is Maria up to now?

Currently studying Spanish and German at UCL.

Maria Olejnik

The leadership workshops offered by the scholarship scheme were the first I had the opportunity to take part in.There were three leadership weekends so far. During those weekends we learned the theory behind leadership and took part in various activities that allowed us to put gained knowledge into practice. Not only did I get the unique opportunity to undertake research (both in London and Madrid) still being an undergraduate student, but I also gained valuable knowledge about leadership during workshops. The workshops included negotiation for instance.


I compared two representations, of an important event in the history of Spain, the battle at Breda. The works I researched were Las lanzas and El sitio de Breda. I enjoyed every second of working on the project. The painting Las lanzas and the play El sitio de Breda are no ordinary pieces of art. They are, in fact, works of the finest artists of the Spanish Golden Age, Diego de Velázquez and Pedro Calderón de la Barca. It was my responsibility to manage my time and project and prove I can do that. Therefore, I would definitely say that the programme allowed me to work on my time management skills. The support I got, both from the programme coordinators and my supervisor, was outstanding. I was a truly amazing experience working alongside a leading academic. It is not often that you can discuss your favourite subject with someone who is equally excited about it. As a matter of fact, when I asked my supervisor to supervise my project, he seemed even more excited about it than I was. It just made me realise why leading academics are so successful in their careers. They are simply extremely passionate about what they do.

International Travel

I did my research project in Madrid. It was a unique opportunity. To be at the museum and see the painting in real life was the highlight of my first year at UCL. Whilst I was responsible for my own travel arrangements, travel costs are covered by the scholarship. I also stayed in contact with my supervisor and the programme coordinator at UCL throughout my stay in Madrid.



Throughout the year, the scholar community built up. Some of us lived in the same student accommodation for the duration of the project, which gave a lot of opportunities for socialising. Apart from that we created a group chat for UCL Laidlaw scholars. The scholarship has given me the an opportunity to socialise with students that have a wide range of interests, since we are a diverse group, both when it comes to our background and area of study.