Anna Muszkiewicz, (PhD) Computational Medicine, 2012–2016, St.John's College, Oxford – now off to work at McKinsey in Warsaw
My name is Anna Muszkiewicz. I first came to the UK after finishing high school in Poland, to pursue an undergraduate Master’s degree in Chemical Physics at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated as the top student in the department while being fully self-funded for the entire duration of the five-year undergraduate programme. Afterwards, I decided continue my education as a PhD student at the University of Oxford. There, I joined an interdisciplinary group of researchers to build computer models of the human heart, with the aim of understanding the causes of the most common cardiac arrhythmia.
During both my undergraduate and doctoral studies, I acquired excellent technical skills and knowledge typically associated with Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. Nevertheless, in this story I would like to focus on the non-technical aspects of my university experience. This is because those non-technical experiences have largely shaped me as a person and will manifest through many of my decisions for years to come.
While at Edinburgh University I combined studies with employment – part-time during the academic year, and full-time otherwise – and learned a range of incredibly useful ‘life skills’ as a result. For instance, I became very good at managing my own time and setting priorities. I also planned my budget one year in advance to balance university and work-related demands, and to ensure I always had a sufficient amount of financial resources available (particularly for emergency situations).
I received a full UK government scholarship for my doctoral degree and was able to immerse myself in the vibrant student life and extracurricular activities at Oxford. I co-organized three UK-wide conferences promoting interdisciplinary science as well as women in science and engineering; I led the largest student society supporting women in technical fields at Oxford University; I coordinated the leadership development programme for women graduate students at St John’s College, Oxford. All these experiences taught me team work, team leadership and massively improved my communication skills.
Finally, if undergraduate studies are about learning from a book, a doctoral degree is about writing one, or rather about re-drafting, re-writing, and re-designing. The process is demanding both intellectually and mentally, as one builds resilience and learns to manage setbacks. Probably the most useful skill that I gained during my PhD is the ability to push ahead in spite of those setbacks.
Overall, I received a world-class education in the UK. Having now finished my PhD, I am about to transition from academia into business by joining one of the top strategy consulting companies. I have little doubt that the skills I gained during my studies in the UK were instrumental in securing this offer, while the traits of resilience and perseverance are bound to help me adjust to the new challenges ahead.
Mikołaj Kaspszak, PhD in Statistics, St.Cross College, Oxford
I first came to the UK in October 2011 to start a four-year BSc and Master degree in Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics at the University of Warwick.
Very soon I became a member of the Polish Society at Warwick and then served as its Secretary in the second year of my studies. I found interacting with other Polish students especially helpful in the early stages of my time in the UK, when I was having to adapt to new learning and social environments. Participating in numerous events organised by the Society gave me a chance to meet many interesting people, make friends and spend some great time taking a break from work.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the academic aspects of my degree, I was also keen to take advantage of a lot of career talks and events organised by academic societies in cooperation with employers. Those gave me a chance to learn more about internship and graduate job opportunities available and encouraged me to apply for some of those. I was lucky to be given offers from and then work for actuarial teams of a pension-fund management company in the summer after my second year of study and a general insurance company in the summer after my third year.
Carrying out my own research and writing my Master’s dissertation turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the degree and made me decide to apply for PhD positions at various UK universities. I felt like continuing an independent study and staying in the academic environment was a better choice for me than going immediately into industry. After submitting a research proposal and attending interviews I was accepted for a PhD at Oxford. I’m currently in my second year of the degree, working in the Probability Group and the Department of Statistics.
I am supported financially by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which covers all my university and college fees and pays me a stipend, which is of a sufficient size to cover all my living costs. I enjoy the great flexibility offered by the degree in terms of the research topics I choose and the working hours. I’m also glad to be offered a chance to explore different parts of the world, such as Canada or Russia, when going to international conferences.
Being able to take advantage of all the non-academic opportunities offered by the University, which include joining societies and sports clubs, is another advantage. I enjoy socialising with my fellow Polish students and attending events organised by the Oxford Polish Society. I have taken up salsa dancing and joined the Oxford Salsa Society. I have also made many friends in my college, which provides another platform to meet new people and find support when needed.
The vast number of career options I have, including working in academia or joining a research team in a financial-sector company, make me confident that my professional life after graduating from Oxford will be particularly successful.
Wojciech Dziwulski, MEng in Electrical Engineerig (2013–2017), Mansfield College, Oxford – now off to work at Bloomberg, London
I started dreaming of studying abroad after a visit to Oxford in October 2006. Only being a primary schooler at the time I had no clear path ahead of me, no evident idea of how to accomplish the end goal other than an unfading desire to do my best at school.
Oftentimes that wasn't enough - my path turned out to be full of little failures whose impact I didn't appreciate at first, but which motivated me to try harder, achieving even more than initially planned. I finally felt I was on the right track when admitted to the International Baccalaureate class in the 3rd High School in Gdynia. Eternally grateful to the inspiring academic staff I was then able to unfold my talents and eventually realise dreams of becoming an engineering student. My involvement in various extracurriculars, most notably founding the Trinity Model United Nations conference, extended my interest areas and helped additionally strengthen my profile.
Multiple ambitious dreams and some inspiring moments later I set my foot in Mansfield College, Oxford as an engineering fresher. With a head full of dreams and a CV to fill in I was proactive to find every opportunity to grow and develop in order to best prepare for the future ahead. During my last year, starved for even more adventures, I decided to participate in a year-long exchange programme at the National University of Singapore.
The multitude of the available opportunities is the true value of studying abroad. The academic standard of my course was second to none, but the people and experiences were what made my time in the UK truly special.
Malik Aimeur, BA in Oriental Studies, 2nd year, St.Benet's Hall, Oxford
The opportunity to study at the University of Oxford has been my dream for as long as I can remember, particularly because I have always associated it with a distinguished history, a rich tradition, and an excellent quality of teaching. Today, almost two years after I was first allowed to wear the Oxford gown and to promenade in the mesmerising city of dreaming spires, mindfully treading the very same paths that had once been trodden by O. Wilde and J.R.R. Tolkien, I still go back in awe to those moments when studying here was nothing but a pipe dream and a beautiful picture, however hazy and beyond reach.
And when my first year at university started, I already knew that it was going to be a life-changing experience. I settled in quickly and met some truly fascinating people from all walks of life, ready to generously share inspiring stories and invaluable knowledge, and from whom I have learnt to reflect on my own views about the world and rethink them over and over again. And although I would not be surprised to hear opinions that freethinking implies opposing or even denying authority, I personally believe it rather means that one is able to choose their own role models more consciously, and environments such as the University of Oxford enable young people to easily reach out to a plethora of people who can serve as an example they are eager to follow.
But what I also found profoundly enriching about being an Oxonian, apart from just meeting the academic staff and fellow students, is the way in which the system encourages self-awareness in study, notably through its terrific tutorial system, known to offer to each and every student an ample opportunity to directly interact with specialists in their fields and to explore the areas of interest they are most keen on. Also, the college system makes the community more diverse, and each college has its own distinctive character which definitely adds to the colourfulness of the student life.