Thursday, May 15, 2003

Life’s turning points

I got news yesterday that is simply life-changing.

I’m going to Cambridge.

Come October, I will be studying for a Masters of International Law at the University of Cambridge, England.

I am still feeling rather overwhelmed. I have never lived overseas on my own for an extended period. I haven’t been in the UK since I was five.

For the last fortnight I’ve been pretty stressed, in a way I have had trouble communicating to anyone, about “the future”. You know. The Future. What I want to do with my life if I don’t want to go back to a giant firm in Sydney. A ten-year school reunion will do that to you. As will a one-year contract in Melbourne that runs out around mid-October. I had begun to look for jobs that would keep me in Melbourne, the only other option being to trudge back to the Sydney firm at the end of my eighteen-month “leave of absence”.

I had started applying for scholarships to the UK pretty much from the moment I landed in Melbourne. The academic calendar starts in October, my term down here finished in October, I’m still only 27 – if I was going to do it, now was the time to apply. There are three major scholarships for study in the UK from Australia that I knew about, the everything-paid kind: The Chevening (British Foreign office sponsored), the Menzies Foundation, and the Commonwealth Scholarships. The Menzies and the Commonwealth did not interview me, the Chevening did in Feburary – but declined me.

The nice folks at the Chevening, however, referred my application to the Scots Australia Council, because I had an interest in the University of Edinburgh. Monday was my interview with the SAC, held at the British Consulate in Melbourne.

Yesterday, I had a call from the Canberra British High Commission. I thought it was a follow-up about the SAC. Instead, I discover someone ahead of me has been unable to take up his or her Chevening Scholarship and I was top of the reserve list.

I was stunned.

No ifs, no buts, no questions – they’re sending me to Cambridge for the nine-month Masters program.

While this solves the question of what I’m doing next year, in some ways the timing is, at best, bittersweet. I was just getting to love Melbourne, and will now have to leave it in less than a year. And for just on two months, I’ve been seeing a truly wonderful woman. The fact that what is, basically, the biggest news of my life will inevitably be upsetting to someone I care about deeply certainly affects how I feel about all this. But that is as much as I am going to say about that here.

What does this all mean, practically? In one sense, everything. The law I am most interested in working in is public international law and international human rights law. The professional “field” for this work boils down to academia, UN agencies, non-government organisations like the Red Cross, and some specialised government departments like the Attorney General’s Office of International Law. Getting into the field is next to impossible without a higher degree, preferably obtained during study abroad. All that may be open to me after this.

Everything is too vivid, too intense right now. I still haven’t really assimilated what’s happening and what it means. And there is just so much I have to get done between now and October. But this is the biggest turning point in my life since 1997 and I have to seize it.

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