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    "Think big and never give up on your dreams"

    By United Kingdom University of Oxford
    "Think big and never give up on your dreams"

     

    It was a dream come true to study at one of the oldest and best universities in the world. I enjoyed living and studying in Oxford, which is a little old town with a rich history and beautiful buildings. The studying pace was very fast and demanding, however, there was still enough room to have fun with friends from my cohort. I really enjoyed the social life and being surrounded by like-minded people from all around the world. It was very inspiring and intellectually stimulating to live in this kind of environment. I also had some time to explore the country and make random trips to Scotland, Wales, and some beautiful places in England.

    I was surprised by how diverse the student body was when I arrived in Oxford. I had this impression that Oxford is a white elitist institution for rich people. Although that is still true, it is nowadays also a melting pot of extremely smart and talented people from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. My cohort had 120 people from over 50 countries! Another shock I experienced was the stark divide between students and locals. Oxford is after all not just a university but also a town inhabited by locals who live there. Although we all share the same space, there is almost no interaction between the students and the locals. It seems that the presence of the university is sometimes making the lives of the locals more difficult because of the spread of university-owned land and rapid growth of living costs.

    The living cost in Oxford and in the UK, in general, is very high. The monthly rent for a student accommodation runs between 600 and 800 £GBP. If you are cooking at home food can be cheap, but eating outside more than twice a week is already a financial challenge. One must manage their money really wisely if they want to study and live here.

    During my studies, I could not work because there simply isn't enough time to balance a demanding academic program and a job. Luckily I was on a scholarship that covered all of my costs so I didn't have to worry about it. More than half of my class was also on some form of scholarships and pretty much nobody had to work during the studies. At the end of my master's program, I interned at the Open Society Foundations and did some policy research on utilizing different population data sources in decision-making processes. This summer placement was a requirement for my degree.

    I come from a low-income family in Croatia, and as a young person, I never thought I would be able to visit places like the UK, let alone study at a prestigious and expensive university like Oxford. Later I realized that there are actually many scholarships and programs that help students like me gain access to higher education. I would recommend young students from disadvantaged backgrounds to think big and not give up on their dreams because there are opportunities out there that you maybe are not aware of yet. The doors will open for those who are persistent and proactive.

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