Someone once told me: “Never let financial constraints restrict your dreams. Let the sky be your limit.”
I remember I was in my final year of my pre-university education when I heard this advice. Like many other Malaysian students, I was at a crossroad and I did not know which path to choose. Studying in Oxford has always been my dream, but I was too afraid to put forward my application. I was afraid that my parents would be burdened by hefty education costs and that my mediocre command of English would be a barrier to my academic achievements. That year, fear won, I lost.
A few years later, I am in my mid 20’s and working in a prominent law firm in Malaysia. It was a good career and life but those wise words kept repeating in my head. What if I’ve tried achieving my dream?
I remember vividly that on the day I submitted my application, thousands of “what ifs” crossed my mind. What if I have obtained the offer but would not be able to pay the fees? What if I failed? What if I chose to continue my stable career path? For most of us, there are times in our lives where our dreams come within our grasp, but fear and doubt cloud our judgment. That was the case for me too.
Nevertheless, I persisted. And this year, I won, fear lost. I was accepted into Oxford, and I overcame the financial constraints with a scholarship from Hong Leong Foundation which helped to pay for the fees. It's a cliché, but dreams are indeed achievable. Reach out to them with all your heart and soul, and who knows what you may achieve?
I am grateful to Hong Leong Foundation for giving me the chance to further my studies in Oxford and to benefit from the cultural and intellectual exchange there. I enjoy learning from prominent lecturers and legal practitioners, in addition to attending class discussions which constantly challenge my thoughts and views. As the saying goes: “the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know”.
Photo caption: My coursemates and me at Oriel College, Oxford dining hall
Apart from studying, I spent most of my time immersing myself in English traditions there, and learning about other cultures from my interactions with my classmates. As the only Malaysian in my course, I interact with people from different countries and backgrounds on a daily basis and this greatly enriches and broadens my experiences there. Life is now like a little box of chocolates to me, with each day promising a new experience, a new insight, a new friend.
This is my most precious treasure in Oxford - the cultural and intellectual exchange, the opportunity to broaden my mind and to realise that the world is so huge and that our views can be so narrow and parochial at times.
Photo caption: Ten of us from ten different countries, in one journey together.
If I did not take a step forward and apply for the scholarship, I would be the same associate, living the same life, thinking about the same “what ifs” everyday. Looking back, I am glad that I put aside the "what ifs", and sent the application in. For those of you reading this, I hope you can rekindle the dreams you once had.
Dreams are achievable when you put in the efforts to realize it. The Hong Leong Foundation is there as a platform for you to expand your wings. If you are a talent, do not let financial constraints restrict your limits. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be daunting, but it can be hugely rewarding as well. So, step out of your comfort zone today and you have my well wishes with you.
Choong Wei Ling - University of Oxford