Meet Karine, who has just returned from a Santander-funded research trip to Ethiopia…

Karine is studying for an MPhil (Master’s) in Development Studies at St John’s College. Her studies are fully-funded by Santander, the Clarendon Fund and her College. Here she explains how she came from Sao Paulo in Brazil to be studying at Oxford, and the difference the funding has made to her future career.

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Applying for an MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford was certainly one of the best decisions I’ve made, potentially only comparable to the decision to accept the Oxford offer. My application was entirely written as I sat on the floor of a slum in Sao Paulo, while working as an MIT D-Lab trip leader. The constant thought in my mind was a rather simple one: ‘I have no idea what my chances are, but I just have to try.’ And everything somehow fell into place…

My name is Karine and I was born and raised in Brazil. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2013 at MIT (USA), with a double BSc in Physics and in Political Science. All throughout my time there, I had been involved in development projects. But the final decision to pursue international development as a career came only as I received a scholarship to study at Oxford. The combined scholarships from Santander, the Clarendon Fund and St John’s College have allowed me to turn down an offer for a full time position at a management consulting company and follow my dream to study development – a difficult decision, but one I would have never been able to do without funding. Oxford has been a fantastic experience in so many ways! The academic rigour of the university is balanced by a rich social life that fosters connections between people working on the most diverse areas.

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The generous funding I am receiving has allowed me not only to come to Oxford, but also to go to Ethiopia for fieldwork. I spent this past summer in Addis Ababa, conducting fieldwork for my MPhil thesis and collaborating with a project in the Oxford Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE). My MPhil thesis is a continuation of a research project I worked on while at the World Bank, focusing on self-employment and entrepreneurship as engines for job creation. There is much we still need to understand about the nature of self-employment in developing countries. Under which conditions do urban youth opt for self-employment? Which circumstances allow them to remain in this occupation – and thrive? Finally, what makes them abandon self-employment, and what are their job prospects like once they leave self-employment? The collaboration with CSAE allows me to conduct qualitative and quantitative research with a random sample of individuals in Addis Ababa, a rare and precious opportunity.

Every day, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the opportunity to be here and to learn from the incredible people around me – be it in Oxford or in Addis Ababa. In addition to the material means to study at Oxford, the scholarships I received have also provided me with two invaluable things: the confidence that I belong in the field of development, and the drive to make the most out of my time here. If Oxford is your dream university, I highly encourage you to give it a chance and apply as well – everything might just fall into place for you too. 

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Oxford Scholars in the World … and round the corner

Last year while studying for his MSc in Social Anthropology at Wolfson College, Garlen Lo was a Student Ambassador for the Development Office and remains a good friend of the team. Since graduating earlier this year, he’s not traveled too far…

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“A week after finishing my exams I began my position as the elected Vice-President for Graduates at the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU). I ran for this role because I felt the University could be doing more in financially supporting the world’s most talented postgraduate students. This year, I will be working with the University to increase the number of postgraduate scholarships and to establish a long-term plan to ensure that postgraduate study at Oxford is available to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background.”