As a child, I often heard my parents emphasise the value of education. Reading the biographies of Prime Ministers and other prominent individuals attending Oxford University, I was transfixed by the unparalleled transformative capacity of an Oxford education. For someone whose mother and father had emigrated to Australia at a young age with no greater than a high school education, such an accomplishment could well have been out of reach. I, however, embraced it as a challenge. At eight years old, I picked up an encyclopaedia and perused the top universities in the world, circling Oxford with a red pen and told myself that one day, I would attend and receive a degree from one of the best universities in the world. Pen in hand, I was certain that education alone had the ability to admit me into the brilliant but seemingly unattainable world of eminent academics and diplomats I admired from afar.
Many years later, having launched a successful career in management consulting, I retained the aspiration to pursue my childhood dream of attending Oxford. Now having a young child of my own, I was determined to instill the same values that had driven me to set nearly impossible goals for myself. Fortunately, I now had the privilege of demonstrating those values through my actions as well as my words.
Upon compiling the aggregate of my professional accomplishments to prepare my application for the MSc, I eagerly awaited the news regarding my acceptance for weeks, bracing myself for either elation or disappointment. Finally, during a walk with a close friend around the Melbourne University campus, I received a notification on my mobile phone: the culmination of 25 years of ambition. I read the text – “I am delighted to inform you that your application for admission to the University of Oxford as a graduate student has been successful” – finding myself overcome with a number of emotions, not the least of which was pride. This pride, however, was tempered by humility – evoking the numerous sacrifices my parents had made to help me reach what once appeared impossible, as well as the enormity of joining the ranks of Oxford’s eminent and world-renowned alumni.
As I prepare to commence my executive master’s programme in September, I am looking forward to making new friends from across the world and being immersed in the traditions that have evolved at Oxford since 1096. Most of all, I am eagerly anticipating the academic challenges that lie ahead.