Dreaming bigger goes beyond our own career aspirations

5 minute read

I would like to thank the Laidlaw Foundation and all of the many different foundations, companies and individuals who have provided scholarship funding at Saïd Business School. I would also like to thank Oxford Saïd - from the programme team, to admissions, funding team and all the individuals involved in making this experience possible. And finally I would like to extend a big thank you to my fellow scholars because, not only have we made it to Oxford, but we made it to Oxford with a scholarship!

For some this might have been a childhood dream or something they had planned for a long time and for others, like me, this was too out of reach to even consider that it might happen one day.

In my case, I come from a small farmers’ town in Portugal called Braganca, but I was born and raised by immigrant parents in the Netherlands. As you might know, Portugal had a 50-year dictatorship that completely ravished and impoverished the country, especially the countryside where I am from. So it was very common for people in my region to go outside of the country to get some food on the table for their families. 

Most of the people that went abroad did so without speaking the local language and juggling multiple jobs, sometimes from 6am to midnight, as was the case with my parents. And to add to that, people would not always be kind to us because we were considered outsiders and regarded as 'help'. Something that, unfortunately, still happens today with immigrants everywhere. However, through a combination of my parents commitment, my own perseverance and maybe some luck, I made it to university. I was the first generation in my family to attend university.

While in uni, I wanted to give something back to the community, so I volunteered for 7 years with an NGO to advance education opportunities among young people in Europe and North Africa. Eventually, I ended up in the public sector at the Council of Europe. After a brief stint in the private sector, I felt that I was ready to progress my career and an MBA fit with my future career aspirations.

As I said before, I always looked at Oxford as something that was out of reach for someone with my background. I had massive imposter syndrome – throughout the application process and the lovely GMAT preparation – however looking at the Laidlaw scholarship page and reading some of the previous cohorts profiles gave me a glimmer of hope.

I finally decided to apply, hopeful that I would be one of the lucky ones to get a scholarship. And on the 19th of May 2023 at 15:21 and 37 seconds, to be more specific, I received an email with the good news! I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that scholarships don’t just remove a financial barrier but also act as a powerful vote of confidence in our potential. It definitely fuelled my motivation and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have done.

I had many highlights throughout my time here: I went to COP28 as University of Oxford Delegate with a team of 50 climate researchers from the University – built relationships with academics, networked, and brought the main insights back to the school and my cohort. 

Another memorable experience was visiting Pakistan with the Oxford Diplomatic Society, where we were received as state guests. We were part of one of the first student delegations from a major Western university to visit the country. A more recent highlight was bringing 55 of my closest friends, and people I met on the programme, back to my home country to experience the Portuguese culture, food and of course the spring street fests.

But I think the biggest gift was the School's super supportive community of scholars that are an inspiration and I am sure they are going to do great things in their communities. I wanted to talk about a few people that have particularly inspired me:

  • Diana Chao – Diana is a Skoll Scholar and a force of nature. Despite the many adversities she experienced in life, Diana founded the largest global youth organization that aims to destigmatize mental illness.
  • Lisa Mugure – Lisa is a Laidlaw Scholar who through complex infrastructure projects and major programmes has been addressing Africa's most pressing challenges. Lisa is also one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Even in the most stressful situations, she always ensures that everyone is okay. This is quite unique in this fast paced world we live in.
  • Kennedy Kitheka – Kennedy is a Mastercard foundation scholar who has over ten years of experience launching innovative ventures in education and fintech across the globe. He is also an older brother figure to me, having provided invaluable life advice multiple times when I was having a Pentium crash. Kennedy also has a gift for seeing the world in a very holistic way, perhaps due to his experiences living in over 10 countries and 4 continents.

These are just some examples of incredible individuals, but there are many more. As some of us finish our time here, we now belong to a very wide network of scholars, students, and Oxonians. Let’s make the most out of this opportunity.

Thanks to Saïd Business School and our donors, we can now dream bigger. And dreaming bigger goes beyond our own career aspirations. Regardless of the area where we end up – whether in a fancy consulting house or banking – let’s make sure we contribute to change things we think are unfair. Life is tough, for some more than for others, and very, very short. So let’s try to make the lives of others who don't have the same privileges as us a bit happier if we can.

Oxford MBA.