Applying for a master’s
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Applying for a master’s

December 11, 2019

So I think that is a fun one this is the serious… – Found it out already!
-Yeah! – Who would like to go first? – OK, here we go. What have you done in Oxford that you
have never done before? – Built a snowman. – Aw really?
– Yeah coming from a tropical country you cannot really expect snow, but yeah when it was this first
snowfall I was like running around like a kid, and built a snow bear to represent
my college, Teddy Hall, so yeah. – Actually it was my first time seeing snow too. We were in lectures and it starts going, I literally just ran outside in the middle of lectures. – I’ve never ducked out to have a study
break lunch with a former prime-minister, which seems to happen in Oxford.
That was definitely a first time. – Yeah I’d never met any royalty until I came to
Oxford and was really fortunate to meet Queen Noor of Jordan and Princess Basma
which was really exciting so bumping shoulders with the Jordanian Royals was something I had never done before. – Can you see the gradient of things that happened? – Started with snow, ended with royalty. OK, how did you go about starting
your personal statement /statement of purpose? I found it really really difficult to start mine. I think I was really scared
that if I started it my idea would fall apart, and there wouldn’t be the evidence,
or there wouldn’t be the information already out there. That’s the hardest bit. – And also the important thing is to at least have… first write down everything
and anything in the first round, mine was a big dump – I was just dumping everything, whatever I had done, anything close to computer
science, that was on my person statement. And then there were hours of editing, and people reviewing it over and over but yeah, that’s a journey in itself like Oxford. – And I think following that dump, kind of, I certainly did that, but I think
it’s really important to actually – I spent a lot of time talking out loud so my written process was actually very vocal, saying why do I actually want to be here? In all of the mess of everything I’ve done, haven’t done, studied, thought about, why Oxford? And not Oxford just because
the town, the University, but what is it about being in Oxford
that’s going to get me where I want to be. So I did a lot of talking by myself in my room, yeah. – And I think a big part of the personal statement especially for a place like Oxford, is sort of crafting that narrative of academic self that fits alongside your professional experiences, because the most important reason why
we’re here is the academic work that we do, but that also translates into work experiences, internships, volunteering, so kind of crafting everything around to tell that greater picture of
who you are as an academic, I found, as a, that was a really helpful
way to craft the personal statement. – And reading it back to like
family and friends with honesty, does this sound like me? Because they’re the first people to say who is that person on the page? You actually you want the people
around you to recognise yeah that’s what you’ve been
speaking about for the last few years and that really sounds like you. And it took a few times to get there but,
I know I think It can be scary telling family and friends you’re
actually applying for Oxford because it makes it real
and it makes it something you can miss, but just being brave to actually share it and get the feedback around you I think’s important. – For me, when I was writing my personal statement I went onto my course website and I looked at a lot of what they emphasised and what kind of
students they were looking for. And I kind of… wrote my experiences based on that. So they really emphasised lab skills so I was like oh I did these courses, these are techniques I’ve learned, and this is how I could further that at Oxford. – And also, do not fake it. Be as as you as possible and bring out
the best out of you, because then you… at the end of the day you won’t be able to
justify to yourself that why I am going to Oxford or why I want to go to Oxford, so yeah, in that you should be true to yourself. – And when I felt like I needed
to check in with someone who had an academic lens I emailed my professors
from undergrad and had them look over my personal statement just to make sure
that they felt… but I especially asked the ones who went to Oxbridge to look over my statement to see if they could find any places just to strengthen it or find any cracks that they would want repaired before it got sent in.
That was helpful for me. – I mean it’s really helpful, like definitely if you have,
but I think it’s also like it’s okay just to kind of go at it without
knowing anyone that’s ever been to Oxbridge, because I think that can be terrifying that, whether it’s the personal statement
or the written sample, kind of assessing is it ‘Oxford enough’, and that’s gonna be impossible to meet every time, so I think, kind of, if you know it’s you and don’t put in the essay that you think speaks most ‘Oxford’ of the professors, what was the one that actually you cared about, and meant the most to you, and is like you. So in the absence of having an Oxford standard I think the only one you can go
by is is you, your course website, yeah. – Yeah completely, agree with that, yeah. – How does living in Oxford compare
to living in your hometown? – Uh oh… – I’m from Florida, so used to seeing the sun all the time. I’m used to driving everywhere as well
so I don’t drive here, but I really like it here. It’s obviously beautiful. – You know I think Oxford gets a
hard time for being a bubble, but I actually really like the bubble. I can walk or ride everywhere, you’ve got
everything to pick from spoilt for choice on facilities, on people, and I live in like a mile radius
from some of my closest friends, it’s pretty special, yeah. – It also obviously looks like Hogwarts… Coming from like a large
public university in Southern California which is where I grew up, near the beach, it was all I knew for life and for uni, so to have what has been a completely different experience in grad school has been really exciting.
It adds a little panache, it adds a little embellishment
and history and myth to the degree which can be really fun when you’re walking I don’t know, where CS Lewis met with Tolkien to work on their Inklings group or whatever – it just adds another layer of meaning and history and excitement to the degree. – I definitely feel smarter in the libraries here and my last name’s Dobbie so it’s actually like coming back to Hogwarts so, it’s pretty special and you just,
you do you kind of soak it up and you sit in these desks in
the library and you go who sat here like, last decade, last century, and I just think that you have to soak some of that up. – Yeah I’ve definitely sat their thinking
I should work hard, I feel like the surroundings demand it. It also brings, like, the very… like it brings the myth down, because you you know your peers,
you know who you’re working with, and you you realise that yes people here are very intelligent and capable and talented but also they’re just like everyone else, and so you think if people have
been able to achieve such great things coming out of here, a simple person like me might be able to well. – Hashtag impostor syndrome. – Yeah the impostor syndrome never wears off. Well it hasn’t worn off for me,
I don’t know about you guys. – Same here. What has being part of your college been like,
or mean to you? – I think what’s really nice
about the college system just generally is that it provides you with like a little mini community, where you feel like you know most people, or everyone, and that’s really nice, it feels more homely than being in a big university institution. – Being an international student,
and then having never moved away from home before, my college has been so caring, so welcoming. I was a little bit intimidated when I first came here, I was like, I don’t know where anything is, I don’t know if I’m gonna make friends, but from the very beginning with freshers week they put on so many events, like,
we went ice skating we went punting, we had brunch, everything. But then they also had more practical things like
going on tours so they could just tell me where do I buy my groceries,
and then helping with my computer, helping with everything, so I really love my college. – Yeah, like you were mentioning on the first day, so when I came here after 14 hours of travel and I was like, okay, I was super exhausted, and they had someone event in the college,
and it was like, I’m not tired anymore, because it was so welcoming and it wasn’t like… I had some notion in
the back of my head okay there might be some level of discrimination or…
I don’t know I had some very random negative thoughts going around but they
were shattered within seconds, and that is the best part, and now when I look
back to my journey through my college and I…
from a computer science background and my best friend out here is studying
German and I’m like I couldn’t imagine such friendship growing up if I
will not been exposed to a college like set-up, so yeah it’s amazing.
That basically adds more value and beauty to the system because now you have
possibility of collaboration, interdisciplinary collaboration
happening somewhere, which is fantastic. – And the unique opposite of that is a
college like mine, I go to St Antony’s College so a lot of folks study
area studies, we host the Middle East Centre, the Russian Center, the Latin
American Center etc etc, so we have a lot of scholars who do politics or
international relations and the dinner table discussion in hall
is always so interesting, and we have the largest population
of international students, so you’ll sit at a table with someone from Denmark, Pakistan, Palestine, Japan, you know, everyone representing their own, their own background, their own country,
their own stories, their own academic pursuits, and the, like, dinner is usually
controversial, but always very fun and we learn a lot we get to practice what what
we’re learning. – Yeah I think the college thing’s
been really interesting for me, I think it’s I mean it’s so fundamentally different as a graduate student where
the undergrads they don’t just live and eat there,
they learn through their college, where I think it’s a graduate student sometimes I find myself torn between the
different circles that you kind of have, your college circle, and you have your department circle, and then you might have other
ones, your sporting circle that, the wonderful thing as you said it’s kind of
ready-made, it’s always there, you kind of dip in and out of your circles as you want. I mean it hasn’t been my main one but it’s always there for that support
for those conversations for the food for the something…
– Yeah
-The food – The food – OK No let’s do a fun one What is your favourite study spot? – Oh this a good one. – Oh mines really easy, I really love the Duke Humfreys Library
– Dammit! – I haven’t been there yet
– Oh go there, it’s brilliant, – Third row on the left, the window seat, my seat. – Yeah I totally had a seat in there. Yeah it’s really, it’s really beautiful,
it’s got gorgeous wooden carved ceiling, it’s got oak walls, there’s
ancient books all over the place it’s – Harry Potter was filmed in there – It’s so Harry Potter, it’s really really nice
and its really quiet. – Until they ring the bell and slam it loudly
– Oh yeah I didn’t know that was a thing when I first got here, and I was still there just before the library was closing and the bell rang and it scared the life out of me.
I had no idea what it was. – My room is my den because I love to scatter stuff around me and make it my cosy
space, and then study so my room is my favourite place to study. – I like my college library the best, I live in college so my library is
literally downstairs, you see people wearing their pajamas like everything
just walking down the stairs, books everywhere, it’s just very comforting. I think I mean slightly off that is
another one that I really love not quite pajamas, the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and for me that’s wonderful
because you have reading spaces there where it’s not just or even
predominately students it’s kind of visiting practitioners, fellows, lawyers,
academics, it’s this kind of space it’s welcoming because people, people are
there with their careers and you kind of walk into the reading room and they say
morning what are you doing, and you feel like you’re kind of like a lowly student
just chipping away while they’re creating something but it’s kind of a nice
space to to be around. I don’t know about you guys but I tend to do certain work in certain places. So like for my admin work I’ll go to a cafe, or something and get a cappuccino
and type away on my laptop, but when it’s time to, to hit, hit it hard, I’ll go somewhere
that is quite overwhelming like environmentally, like, like the RadCam, – Yeah like the Taylorian
– Yeah the Taylorian and as you walk in you, you know that it’s gonna be
an intense study session. And yeah.
– I mean libraries where you actually get, like, face, face to face ID it’s just
insane, yeah you kind of it does, it does add to that aura. – OK, so do you have a college preference
when you applied, and how did you choose your preference? – So mine was an open application, I was
like I need to just focus on the department, I’m like okay let’s leave it
on the destiny and I’m happy with destiny landed me in the college where I am. – Yeah I definitely wish that I knew more about the college system when I was applying. When I, when I was applying I was like ‘oh no if I pick one I’m less likely to be accepted’, so I just put open application as well, but I’m really happy with my college. – Ah this is weird, I also did an open application. I started having a look
through the colleges I just thought, I just want to go to Oxford, they
all do the same job, they’re all a little bit different, – And that’s the thing everyone in the end
like, they love their college, their college is the best,
everyone claims to be the oldest or something, or the newest or something. So I had picked a really picturesque,
classic Oxford college to apply to, and I got the complete opposite of that. We have a very lovely brutalist structure as our hall, and we’re very concrete heavy, so it’s a lot different from the Gothic and like the older spaces that we have here, but it was a match made in heaven when it comes to my college experience. So no matter where you get placed, I think I would give this advice to anybody, it is always what you make of it and, essentially, like you said, colleges
they all do the same same thing, they’re all just a little different. But once you go through the year you wouldn’t have wanted
your college experience any other way. – What advice would you give to students who are unsure Oxford is for them? – I, I heard something when I was applying for my undergrad, that somebody said that kind of really stuck with me, they said nobody applies to Oxford
thinking they’re going to get in. There’s no dead certs, everybody applies
thinking oh this one’s this one’s gonna be more competitive, and so just giving
it a go like give yourself a chance to apply, see what happens. – I think another thing is because even if you don’t know if Oxford is for you, you’re normally, you’re normally kind of trying to get into a particular type of course
and I don’t think any harm in reaching out to people in
that course whether that’s current professors and tutors or past students. I mean, good or bad, internet you can find people, and I certainly reached out just
cold emails to people, I’ve definitely had people do it to me, just saying hey do you have five minutes to jump on the phone… I was amazed at how willing people
have been to do that. Not everyone grows up kind of
knowing someone that went to Oxbridge, so it’s kind of bit tough sometimes to say ‘oh chat to someone who’s been there’, but definitely don’t be afraid of the cold email. The worst you can do is get a non-response, and that’s fine, it’s not gonna hurt you. – And I would also say to someone who maybe applies for a graduate program and doesn’t get in, to try again because things are always changing, or try a different course or have a new experience and come back to it because I
don’t think that Oxford is just for one type of person, or the second you
don’t get in you give up on that dream if that is a dream of yours.
I think that it really can be for everyone and it’s not necessarily as soon as a rejection
is handed out that that’s that’s the end of that dream.
I know loads of people who who had applied before and hadn’t gotten in for their undergrad but came for
their masters, or people who ended up doing a DPhil after a long time away from university. So I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for people
who who maybe don’t think that they have a place here to either find that place
or carve that place out for themselves. – Because just by virtue of the numbers, I mean,
a rejections not, that you’re not good enough necessarily, it’s a, we had so
many numbers and we’re trying to craft a particular type of course and we’ve only
got 25 people we can’t have all lawyers or all this that often, unfortunately, you
fall through the cracks, not from like merit or anything just by, just by numbers. – Yeah I definitely have more than one go, I applied at undergrad, didn’t get in
and then got in for my masters, so yeah definitely recommend applying more than once. – OK. How has Oxford changed you? – So I have two things which basically Oxford taught me, that everybody has a journey of their own and we must learn to acknowledge that. That is one major thing which Oxford has taught me And another thing is patience. Be patient. Anything can happen and destiny can
change the course of your life, will do something very magical
within moments so yeah, patience and the journey is
something which Oxford has instilled in me. I was told before I came that
Oxford was an unraveling experience, and I had no idea what that meant until I was literally unraveled, for better and worse. I think what I wish I known is that
whether you want to or not Oxford makes you grow, and I kind of, I think I’ll leave feeling more myself
than when I came, which is a very weird place to be in that not even
intentionally coming here I like a soul-searching thing just, the people you
meet, the course you study, the time you have in your own head, I think it all combines that you have a better sense of who you are if you just kind of sit in
it for a while, I think that’s a pretty, pretty remarkable place to kind of come through. – I think giving being offered a place here made me reassess what I thought of myself, where I thought I could go, so yeah it definitely gave me more confidence. – Yeah as you said it kind of pulls away the veil, not in a bad way but you realise everything behind it is just, just people. Just people doing their thing and
they’re no different, they’re no better, and it’s kind of, yeah like if they can do it, you can do it and yeah, it’s pretty special. – Yeah, normal people walking around – Working hard
– Yes working hard There’s really nice buildings everywhere but actually everyone who’s around just people who
live in the normal world. – I think it really pushed me to my limit in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I calculated it yesterday, I think this year, when all’s said and done, I’ll have written 52,000 words, studied Hebrew, learned how to code, and amongst, you know, an essay a week, to taught one-on-one classes with the expert in the field, on the subject, and then had to navigate friends, dating, life, normal people things, and doing it all at once has been, honestly really hard, but coming out the other end with the degree and with like you said the confidence
and yeah and having been on this journey, having learned to be patient with
yourself, with other people, has been really… that has been the experience of
Oxford. It’s more than the degree, because I’ve come out the other end,
I feel like a totally grown person who is ready to take on something even more
challenging than this, and this has been pretty challenging, so I feel up to the task.

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