17-Jan-2017

Reminiscences of falling in love with Oxford - Column By Aswathy Mohanaprakas

December is arguably my favourite month. It was on a frosty December night back in 2009 that I fell in love with Oxford. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
 
I had been reluctant to apply to the University of Oxford right up to my UCAS deadline. While I had many dreams of attending this prestigious university as a child, I never imagined I'd actually do it.
 
I completed my GCSEs by topping the year with 7 A* and 4 As. While UK Malayalee published an article, and I got accolades at the UKMA event, some relatives were less complimentary, and focused on the missing 4 A*. As a result, I ended up with conditions resembling achiever syndrome. Speaking from experience, not absorbing onlookers' negativity and having personal goals with frequent reality checks is preferable by far than pushing oneself to do it all, all at once.
 
I never thought I'd leave London for uni, let alone apply to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It was mostly thanks to my mum and dad who always told me to go for it just for the experience (even if I was scared), and the tutorial fellow at Oxford who convinced me I was a Linguist and that I should apply to a language-related degree. I also had my kind Maths tutor who believed in me and encouraged me to achieve more unlike a sea of frenemies and generally supercilious peers.
 
I never thought I'd leave London for uni, but there I was on an early morning walk outside Magdalen College, Oxford at 4am, feeling anxious following my two interviews and an aptitude test the day before. It was a three day interview session at Oxford, and there was a possibility of being called back for further interviews.
 
I wouldn't have known if I had gotten in until late December, and I came to a halt thinking about all the things that went wrong, when I felt the crisp wind blowing over the frosty leaves from the closed Botanic Garden and over the Magdalen bridge. And I stood there on the pavement, awestruck at the sight before me. The historic castle-like college with a giant gated archway; through which I saw a Christmas tree. Sparse of tinsel and baubles, it stood there in the middle of the quad as high as ten-maybe even fifteen- foot tall, decorated only by lights. These were no ordinary lights. Electric white lights illuminated the otherwise pitch black area. What seemed like thousands of these tiny electric stars adorned the tree in a slanted circle. There it stood, majestic.
 
Almost magical.
 
That was the magical moment I fell in love with Oxford, when the hustle and bustle of Oxford high street disappeared. I became determined to work hard to get in. By then the important bit like the interview was already over, but I decided then and there that, if God willed I would get in and if not, I would work harder and reapply the next year.
 
Have you got goals and achievements that you reached; or places and moments, that hold a special place in your heart?
 
Aswathy Mohanaprakas (neé Mohanlal) is an Oxford graduate and works in Philanthropy for Oxford during the day, while translating and writing on the side. She is currently working on a translation of an 18th Century Portuguese text cataloguing Malabarese medicinal plants which will be published by the Natural History Museum of London as part of their digitised collection. Aswathy is a regular copywriter on software systems for OFEC, and does editoral pieces for Kerala Link. You can follow her blogs on https://truthflows.wordpress.com


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