MY ROAD TO OXFORD

If your dreams do not scare you they are not big enough. I am Stelina,currently a law student at Oxford University and yet when I was sixteen I failed both physics and chemistry. Before coming to the UK, I was born and raised in Greece where I finished secondary school,to follow my dream of becoming a lawyer, just as my dad, my biggest role model, is.

To be honest with you,I always knew my abilities and that I could achieve great potentials. However, I was growing up in a system that had never motivated me to work hard or inspire me to push myself harder for better results. When I was sixteen, I was a student less-than- average and an obese child with no enthusiasm to change anything anytime soon. Then I made the wisest decision of my life; I recognised that the environment that I was in did not help me thrive as a person and decided to leave Greece and study at the University of Kent in England. My end goal has always been to become a tax lawyer but for a student less-than- average with an unhealthy life style, the probabilities were against me.

A tax lawyer needs both the financial tax knowledge, as well as the legal awareness; I knew I needed two degrees. As my English skills were terrible at the time, I decided to start with aneconomics degree, which requires more mathematics skills than law school, where a close-to- perfect English is much needed. The application process took place via UCAS, and because I was too lazy to do it myself at the time,I paid a visit to an agency that specialises in helping students with applications to foreign universities. Taking this step was a great choice, as not only they helped me fill out my application and assisted with writing the necessary documents, but also they actually helped me to self reflect and understand my goals clearly.

One year later, I found myself atthe University of Kent studying economics, weighing 110 kilos, first time away from home and more lost than ever. Luckily, the English University system does recognise that the above situation is confusing to 90% of the children leaving their homes for the first time. Therefore, the first year of University is not difficult,no matter which University you are attending in the UK. Nevertheless, I still almost failed. The relaxed academic schedule allowed me to become involved with basketball, a sport that I have always loved but neverparticipatedin highly competitive leagues. In my second year, I became a starting player and I really felt the pressure of my team depending on me, so I decided to make a change. When I started at Kent, I was weighing 110 kilos, in the second year I dropped to 64kg.

The awful food, primary ingredients and cuisine the UK has really helped to focus on sports, eat healthily and become a fitter individual. By my third year, my confidence was very high, my life was in perfect order and I learned to take control of my own body and mind. I placed myself on a very tight schedule, which made me preform exceptionally academically and in sports. That year was the hardest year but I was a grown person that could shut down procrastination and use my study time effectively. Nobody can help you change, change always come from within, from believing in yourself and believe that you can achieve your dreams. I always supported that if you can dream about your goals you are half way there.

After my first graduation at Kent, I was stronger and ready to start law school. I was not confident enough to apply to Oxford yet. Looking back, I should have done it then. This is why believing in yourself is essential in your personal progress. However, my personal life was really problematic to allow me to focus at such a competitive university. Sometimes, you have to leave toxic people behind you and associate yourself with people that will make you a better person. In order to be admitted to the number one university in the whole world, every part of your life has to be in balance, so you can keep your eyes on the price. I submitted my second application via UCAS again and I was offered a study place by all five Universities that I had applied to from which I selected City, University of London.

I only decided to go for City because of the location, as I was focusing on getting a really valuable work experience at that point, not so much on the ranking. The fact that I was a basketball player already helped me to faster adjust in thenew environment. It is true that, when you enter a new basketball team you are immediately entering a new family. Losing all that weight during my first degree and turning my academic life around towards the endmade me feel unbeatable. In my second degree I was veryorganised, I had my schedule on point, I knew what needed to be prepared, I had my confidence, I had blocked toxic partners and friends out of life and I was feeling ready for Oxford.

The financial costof Oxford though is not something to be ignored. I was tired of asking money from my parents, so as a result,in my first year of my second degree,I got a full-time job. Towards the end of the last year of law school, I had a mind-set of overachieving and that there were no excuses for not working 24/7, training 24/7 and studying 24/7. I was taking my books to work and submitting my essays during my lunch breaks. Nevertheless, the money I was not earning still weren’t sufficient to cover my expenses along my tuition fees, as a result I decided to compete for one of the most high-priced and competitive scholarships by the Mayor London.

To cut the long story short, I was awarded the scholarship and I was financially able to support myself at Oxford. The only puzzle piece missing was my Oxford application. It needs to be noted that the UK has exceptional funding systems for students in the form of student loans or academic scholarships,and also many part-time work opportunities that all the Universities helptheir students with in regard to finding and preparing for when applying. Furthermore, the law school application to Oxford was the most intense writing I ever had to do in my life. I finished the academic requirements, references and all the other parts ofthe application within one day.However, it took me one month to write the personal statement.

The number one necessity for a cover letter that would land you at Oxford is uniqueness. It needs to be stated that writing that the reason you want to do law is because people need justice, will not get you anywhere. In order to get the attention needed to pass, you have to really research the course you are applying for and seriously consider your motivations. Moreover, you must believe that you deserve to be a part of the best University, it is shown in your writing whether you feel like you belong there or not. Do not be arrogant, but illustrate your achievements in great detail.In the case of an interview, keep in mind that you are invited to an interview for a reason, becausethe admission officerssupport that you are worth a chance.

Be critical in the way you think about their questions, know the material and the information you included in your application inside out. If you lied in your application, they will spot it,thus I would not advise you to do so. In your mind-set stay positive, do not let anxiety intimidate you and even if you fail you will stand up and try again. After six months of waiting for a response from the admission office, I received my acceptance letter and all of my hard work paid off.

Before starting my MSc in Tax Law at Oxford, I needed a long summer break. I had overworked myself, as it was obvious to me and everyone around me. In the long run, having sufficient holidays to rest your mind is as important as working hard. My next step was to contact the WomenOxford Basketball team during the summer and explain that I really wanted to play basketball with them in the regular season as well as in the historic varsity against Cambridge. They gladly accepted me and with them I have travelled the world.

In the beginning of the season, we went to China, where we were treated like professional athletes, we were staying in five start hotels and we were having our own assistants. In the second term, we travelled to Cambridge and Newcastle for the weekends having all of our expenses covered. In the last term, I went to New York to meet a congressman and update him on the progress of the team. To sum up, playing sports in Oxford not only provides you with a new family of players that will help you to adjust but it also offers you international opportunities that you should not miss out on.

Moreover, academically the exams are hard. However, everybody understands that only the top students are at Oxford and they do study methodically. Consequently, with a structured plan a student is able to balance everything in their curriculum. A wide variety of choices is offered in terms of modules and preferences. Therefore you are able to create an academic schedule which perfectly meets your needs. The professors are also life coaches, always by our side ready to help.

The careers service is exceptionally advanced with job opportunities sent directly to your email daily. Most of the time, work experiences are specifically directed to you or your course, which results in a higher likelihood of getting the job you want, and your chances of success are proportionallyhigher, too. Oxford is a top ranked university for a reason.The difference in the quality of life here compared to any other University in the UK and the USA is evident.

Since I was sixteen and I was failing my school classes, I still knew I was Oxford material. I was working for this moment to happen instead of waiting and wishing for this moment to happen. When I changed my attitude, the results were spectacular. Now, world leaders, highly influential politicians, people who dominate the business sector and the highest qualified academics are educating me. I amgraduating my course next year andI already have job offers from top firms in the US, the UK and Greece, and an offer with a capital “O”, which I have already accepted, to work as a tax lawyer for the United Nations. The road was not easy, there were sleepless library nights and early mornings but being here makes me happy. Life is about doing what makes you happy.

As mentioned, this summer I got accepted at the United Nations where I am working as an intern at the international tax cooperation department. My job is a unique opportunity to offer back to society, develop my policy analysis skills and enjoy New York City. Oxford really opened up my career opportunities and I believe that with determination all of our goals can become reality.

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