Oxford / Travel

Why at 24 I am leaving South Africa for Oxford

When I started this blog one of the main objectives was to document my new adventure in Oxford. Little did I know when I started this journey a year ago what an emotional rollercoaster it would be, even before I stepped on the plane.

Leaving the house and starting out on your own is never easy. I tried it about two years ago and in the end decided to rather move back home after eight months when my roommate moved out and I hated living on my own. I grew up in a house where family popped in at any time, my cousin basically grew up in our house as my sister and for a long time my parents ran their business from our home as well. I love my alone time, but I also love knowing that the people I love and care about are close by.

So why would I give all this up to move half-way around the world for a year?

The simple answer, it has been my dream for the last 8 years. When I was 16 I visited Oxford with my parents and I said to my mom, “one day I will study here”. Little more than five years ago when I started my studies in Publishing at the University of Pretoria I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our department and the publishing department at Oxford Brookes University (in Oxford) had close ties. It was then, as a young first year I promised myself, once again, that I would one day do my Masters in Oxford.

The hall on which the Great Hall in Harry Potter is based in Oxford when I visited with my parents at 16 - photo credits Amanda Nel
The hall on which the Great Hall in Harry Potter is based in Oxford when I visited with my parents at 16 – photo credits Amanda Nel

Of course, I had no idea what it would take to fulfil this promise I had made to myself and in the meantime I lived the student life to the full and found my amazing boyfriend (who, is supportive beyond measure and is already planning his UK visits). Finally in my third, and final undergraduate year, I fell in love with digital publishing and I decided that was what I wanted to do my masters in. It all seemed to be working out very nicely.

Last year June I started the process, and of course I was overpreparing and didn’t realise that the 1 500 word essay I had to write was actually a 1 500 character essay. But never the less I wrote one kick as essay about my passion for digital publishing and my dreams for my career in the field. I thought then writing that essay would be the most stressful part, but little did I know the difficult portion of the preparation was still to come. Next was an interview with a lecture at Brookes and despite the internet failing me in the middle of the interview (TIA right) it went really well and I was offered a Conditional place at Oxford Brookes to do my Masters in Digital Publishing.

I still had to finish my honours degree and mini dissertation before I could receive an Unconditional (permanent) offer and quickly it dawned on me that this would be a very expensive adventure. The dream became real at the speed of that fancy Euro Star train between London and Paris, and I started feeling overwhelmed. I put myself on the line for every scholarship I could find. Honestly, it was one of the most degrading processes I have ever been through and with every NO (without any good reason) I felt like an even bigger failure. Why was I not good enough? I had passed my degree with a distinction, was top of my class all through my studies, was part of leadership structures at the university and had a vision for the future. I was everything you are told to be, but I was not good enough.

My Oxford dream was becoming more of a nightmare. My every thought revolved around how I would get the money to go to Oxford because I believed that if I did not go I would be failing everyone, especially myself. Except for driving and high school maths, I had never failed at anything (and even then it was only temporarily) and I could not fail at my dream. In the back of my mind, I heard my peers laughing at me “really, who did she think she was to try and do something like go to Oxford”. I had nightmares, I was close to tears most of the time and I became very negative. For a year I was living in a bubble called “planning for Oxford” and I was stuck.

It got to a point where I did not want to go to Oxford anymore because the only thoughts I could conjure up about the experience were ones of anxiety. Even after finally receiving a partial scholarship from the International Publishing Center I could not bring myself to be as excited as it seemed everyone expected me to be.

This week I finally picked up my approved Tier4 UK Student Visa (the process was so confusing and once again very emotional for me, but see my next post for more on that). I expected to finally feel happy and excited, but I was even more nervous than I had been throughout the whole process. I couldn’t understand it. This was my dream. Why then was I so unhappy?

Finally, I realised that this is the biggest decision I have made in my 24 years. Many other people my age have been living on their own for many years, but I’ve lived at home most of my life and I was scared. Not scared of going overseas, of the great unknown, or of the different culture (I flourish in situations where I am challenged by the differentness of a situation). No, I was scared of leaving everyone and everything behind. My biggest fear is that I will be gone for a year and that so many things will change on this side that I won’t have a place in it when I come back. I am scared of not belonging anymore. I am scared of people forgetting me and going on with their lives without me. Writing it now is a kind of relief and admitting it is helping me to finally be excited for this new chapter in my life again.

My plane ticket and I pointing to the UK where I will be in less than a month
My plane ticket and I pointing to the UK where I will be in less than a month

Like The Neighbourhood’s song “When I wake up I’m afraid, somebody else might take my place” I am afraid of being replaced. This fear is human nature and in this fear lies the real reason why I need to leave everything behind and realise that the world will go on, that I will go on as well and it is ok. In truth, I am not leaving South Africa, but at 24 I am finally leaving home and becoming my own person.

Oxford will be a great adventure and I know I am going to cry, a lot, but I will do it knowing that I am overcoming a fear that will make me a stronger, more independent young woman. I can finally say that the excitement is starting to trickle back into my stomach and soon I will have butterflies like a girl going on her first date. Yes, I am going on my first date with the world, and with the rest of my life.

Hi, I'm Andri. A 20-something creative, content creator, writer, reader, traveler, healthy living enthusiast and eco warrior! My day job is in digital publishing, but just like The Loud Library, I am full of contradictions. I love my bunny rabbit Olive, cows and sharing my journey to rediscover my spark.

3 Comments

  1. I will miss you terribly, but going away for a year and achieving your dream will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life (not just the 24 years of your life up to now)!

  2. Hi, i’m going to study in Oxford next year as well for the MA in digital publishing. I think it’s normal to be nervous but i really believe that it is going to be an amazing year !!!! Can’t wait to meet you there and enjoy the time you have left with your friends and family xxx

    1. Hey Laura. Wow, how awesome is that! It is wonderful to meet a fellow student like this. I agree is really is going to be a year to remember. Where are you from? I had quite a time finally getting my visa, so will be doing another blog post about that soon, so keep an eye out. Can’t wait to meet you either!

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