From Sierra Leone to Oxford: Prepping for the move

Having lived in more than 12 countries before I was 18, people might expect me to have the ‘moving’ experience down pat. But the truth is, it is always difficult, because any move comes with a shift in routine. Change can be as exhilarating as it is frightening and sometimes, it is a mixture of both.

Incoming student Fatou
Incoming student Fatou Wurie  (third from left) and her colleagues in Sierra Leone

Preparing to arrive at Oxford for my Master of Public Policy after having spent over six years outside the comfortable walls of academia (working in the not-for-profit sector) has proved to be an oscillation between immense pride and gratitude at having gained admission to such a prestigious school, and utter fear that my admission may have been a mistake, especially when over the last couple of months I’ve come to learn about some of the brilliant individuals who will make up this year’s class.

Preparing to move to Oxford is a layered experience for me: I’m ensuring that I fill out all the correct forms and take the time to get my finances in order through thorough budgeting. I also find myself reading the policy challenge we were asked to think about a few weeks ago and watching some of the great talks that have taken place at the Blavatnik School over time. When I am not You-Tubing all things Blavatnik, I immerse myself in the School’s newsletters. After having made mistakes during my undergraduate years, I’m keen to ensure I’m thorough about my visa requirements, housing contracts, where to pick up my student card and of course in signing up for National Health Service (NHS) – I believe this highlights the growth that has taken place in me, a growth that now allows me to prepare to achieve my life goals.

Incoming student Fatou
Fatou giving a talk

The final weeks before the course starts are also filled with spending as much time with my family as possible, soaking up their words of support as they help me pack practically for English weather – globally renowned for its unpredictability. With feelings of trepidation, I prepare to hand over my 18-month-old ‘baby’ non-profit enterprise to new leadership, often wondering if the organisation and myself are going to survive this year, let alone come out strengthened and renewed on the other side. Change, that funny thing we are all required to go through despite fear or anxiety.

Finally, when I am not focused on ensuring that the practical side of my move is organised, I take the time for gratitude. Looking around me in my beloved home called Sierra Leone, I see it as my responsibility to return and share all experiences, academic, technical and professional, that I will gain in the coming year, thus putting into perspective that as difficult as moving and change can be, it is also life’s gift to ensure constant growth.

Fatou Wurie is a member of the incoming MPP Class of 2016 – the fifth class of students at the Blavatnik School. Fatou is the founder and director of The Survivor Dream Project, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting women and young survivors of traumatic events.

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