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The Overseas Fabulous Pinay in Oxford

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

Donna Avellana Künzler

I have always dreamed of studying in Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard for as long as I can remember.

In my two decades of global professional career, I have met alumni of prestigious top universities. The words that come to mind whenever I meet them are the following: impressive, intelligent, inspiring, and esteemed. I secretly wanted to be one of them.

It seemed like a pipe dream, but I held on to it as years passed by. I was not able to prioritize it with my full-time job that kept me busy with business travel. Pursuing higher education in my circumstances just seemed trickier due to the time, effort and money involved. I never lost hope though. I always thought that somehow, someday, it will happen.

In 2018, the stars finally aligned, and I realized my lifelong dream when I attended the Women Transforming Leadership program in University of Oxford. It was a great experience. I came out of the program very inspired and motivated. Shortly after, I submitted my application to the Postgraduate Diploma in Strategy and Innovation (DipSI) program. The program caught my eye as it really matched my requirements. The subjects were perfectly in my interests, the course format was structured to accommodate the schedule of busy executives, there was great networking opportunity, and best of all, it’s a master’s degree level.

On January 2019, I received the formal acceptance letter. I was very happy, but it was not until November 2020 when I started my postgrad journey. I postponed for a year due to my pregnancy, but the further delay was due to the pandemic.

After thirteen months of studies, I’m proud to say that I have a postgraduate degree from Oxford. I still can’t believe that I managed to go back to school twenty-three years since I graduated from my bachelor’s degree and given that I was also a new mother.

Here are my key takeaways:

· Preparation is key. To make the most out of the lectures and discussions, it is imperative to complete the required readings. It’s not easy with about 30 readings per module, but I found that by preparing, I was more engaged and asked relevant questions.

· Plan for study time. In between modules are on average around 2.5 months to review for the exam, write the exam and prepare for the next module. I had to force myself to block pockets of time every week to study.

· Five heads are better than one or 50. Forming a study group is one of the best decisions I made during my course. Our class organized one every Sunday, but I did not join as I wanted my weekends to be free. I formed my own on a weeknight and successfully managed to recruit four classmates. The group really motivated me to study, and we learned a lot from each other. Limiting it to five people made it manageable compared to a session with 50 people where the discussions can easily get out of hand.

· Practice makes perfect. Our assessments for the course were mainly on how well we can apply the frameworks that we have learned. Practicing them on sample case studies was what we did. It really did get easier after doing it at least more than once.

· Take a break. To keep my sanity and recharge after the intense week of lectures, I always practiced taking a one week break of not doing anything study related.

· It takes a village. The phrase is not just applicable to raising kids but also for someone to pursue their passion and dreams. I would not have been able to do this without the support of my loved ones, employer, classmates, and even our neighbors who helped look after my daughter every now and then so I can study.

Remember, it’s never too late and you are never too old to achieve your dreams.

Read more about the author’s postgrad journey in her blog:


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