Jan 2020 – Sept 2022
Let me narrate a fairy tale, so once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in the far-off land called Pakistan. She was 4 years old when she witnessed the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. The little girl was in awe of her charisma and the way she led the country.
As she grew older, she found out that the Prime Minister had completed her education at the University of Oxford. She always wondered, “where does she get the courage from to lead a country?”. The little girl started dreaming. It was always something she silently wished and kept working hard for. Fast forward 28 years (oh, it gave my age away), the girl applied to University of Oxford with a heart full of courage, brimming eyes to make an impact, a lot of hard work but relatively lower hopes and saving situation.
While applying she thought to herself: just by having the courage to go for a dream which has kept her awake at nights, she will increase her chances to be able to be one step closer to being there by 50%. While she was going through the experience of writing essays, getting good scores, she also heard comments like, “yeah right, you really think you will make it into OXFORD? There’s a thin line between dreaming and being delusional”. She kept at it and it took all the courage she could muster to go for it because she knew that ‘regrets are the chances not taken’.
After sleepless nights of essay writings, preparing for the interview, the fear of failure, the fear of putting yourself out there and being rejected of the dream, she persevered. One day, her email said, “Congratulations! You have been selected in the University of Oxford”. It was sheer disbelief, gratitude, happiness and so much magic in that moment that tears came rolling down her face.
After the nirvana of ‘being selected in the top university of the world’ settled a bit (I think, it might not settle completely, ever), she struggled in different ways to make it work (Professionally, personally, financially which in itself is a story for another time), SHE MADE IT!!!
The girl is me and the smile says it all.
The first week in Oxford was nothing short of literally ‘living and breathing the dream’ of not only hers but of thousands of girls like her. She walked along the beautiful pathways of the university feeling the great brilliant minds must’ve walked the same paths. The amazing 73 people which accompanied her throughout the entire overwhelming experience felt more like a family. After meeting and having conversations with many of the fellow Oxonians, she realised, ‘every person has a COURAGEOUS story to tell’. There clearly was a distinct pattern of bravery and passion in the entire cohort.
She grew up reading Khalil Jiban’s piece and nothing is more apt than the same piece for the start of an already transformational journey with the University of Oxford.
FEAR” by Khalil Gibran*
It is said that before entering the sea, a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has travelled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever. But there is no other way.
The river cannot go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean, because only then will fear disappear, because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean, but of becoming the ocean. ”
P.S.: Piece of advice to anyone pursuing this dream – The university states the selection criteria as some academic accolades/intellect, experience years, great Test Scores but one thing more which is required is ‘COURAGE’.
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