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To apply, I had to submit a letter of recommendation from a Professor and submit a motivational essay. Here is my essay:
While volunteering with Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), a non-profit organization in Arlington focused on the restoration of ex-offenders recently released from jail or prison, I met a client I won’t easily forget. After serving four years in prison for drug distribution, Bill sought the help of OAR to obtain his GED. One evening during a tutor session, he asked about my education. I told Bill I studied Sociology in college and now attend graduate school. Bill replied, “That’s good, girl. You’re fortunate. Keep going, but remember you can’t learn everything in school. The streets teach the rest.”
Bill later earned his GED. He has found a job and impressively turned his life around, but his words in particular have stayed with me. He’s right. What am I learning from the world at large, beyond classrooms and life at home here in Virginia? Traveling has always been an interest of mine, but I’ve never had the opportunity to go abroad. In fact, if able to study at Oxford, I will be the first in my immediate family ever to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. Bill reminded me that, while a formal education in a classroom is important, there’s much more to education than papers, professors, and presentations. I need to take increasingly large steps out of my comfort zone to become more well rounded – travel, see the world, experience different cultures, and learn from “the streets,” as Bill implied.
Therefore, studying abroad is the perfect launching pad for my journey, because it will combine academic learning with different cultural perspectives than those I encounter at home. Oxford, in particular, piques my interest because the History, Politics, and Society program relates to my current studies. Studying Britain’s legislation and government policy in courses like “The Changing Face of Britain” will be an interesting contrast to my American policy coursework, and social issues discussed will also build upon my undergraduate background in Sociology. What better place to study history, politics, and society than alongside students from around the globe at the first university in the English-speaking world? I also need to walk the streets of Oxford, eat in British cafes, admire the gothic architecture, and make weekend trips to other European areas to understand the culture and people -- really learn from “the streets,” so to speak. I need to put myself in the atmosphere and perspective of others in our world to really learn from them, as Bill wisely suggested.
A scholarship would help make this a reality. I currently work for the American Red Cross, which, as a non-profit organization, is unable to assist in financing my education. If accepted into this program, I plan to use financial aid to pay all of my costs. Therefore, assistance from a scholarship will greatly help in reducing my financial aid debt after graduation and will provide the financial boost needed to allow me to study abroad. I truly believe this experience will be life-changing, and I plan to make the most of it if given the opportunity.