This week saw a new addition to the Sachs Scholarship family. We are a small tribe—the scholarship has existed for 40 years, and only one person has been chosen in all years except one—and it is really exciting to have a new member among us. (Seriously, check out Veronica—what a brain wave!)
The announcement of the new scholar is also a marker, a fixed point in time that allows me to measure how my time at Oxford has changed me. Two years ago, of course, I was floating on cloud nine when—after being rejected by the Rhodes and the Marshall—I was finally ‘chosen’. One year later, though, the announcement of the new scholar came at a nadir. The early sanguinity of being in this place was just starting to wear off, and the reality of being a small fish in a big, unfamiliar academic pond was just setting in. Reading about Josh—the new scholars—incredible accomplishments as an activist and community member at Princeton just made me feel like a fraud.
This year, things couldn’t be more different. It certainly helps that Josh is here, and while he’s actually more inspiring than I thought, I’m no longer worrying about whether I was ever ‘worthy’. As I look over Veronica’s mind-blowing resume, I have the sense of self to realize that someone else being impressive doesn’t make me not so; it just means I’m different. And I guess that has been the key to finding happiness at Oxford; I am, at long last, at peace with my limitations and willing to acknowledge my strengths.
It’s hard to explain what has made this term so great. Most of my time has been spent buried in a GRE study book or filling out tedious PhD applications. When I finally had a chance to stop thinking about the future—about two weeks ago, when my last application to the University of Michigan went in—I realized that life is absolutely fabulous. This term, I’ve had my first ever academic publication skirt through peer review; I cracked the code for writing an Oxford essay (rule #1: cite Foucault early and often); I even realized that class in my department could be engaging and exciting. As always, some of the best parts have had nothing to do with learning: I stroked my first rowing race, and, with the boat club, cut a swathe of destruction through downtown Cambridge on a Saturday night.
So, more than anything else, what I feel for my new family member is jealousy. I’m excited for the future, but I could go for a bit more time here. I feel like I have just recently cracked the code to Oxford, and yet I’m already forced to think about moving on.