This is the third year that I am attempting to get onto a masters program. It is also the third year that I may fail to do so.
I have been luckier than most. Growing up in Uganda and choosing journalism as a career felt like signing up for a future of food stamps – except we don’t even have those. So I wrote for different publications, earned what I could and in 2013 when I received a scholarship to study media in Australia, my life choices felt validated.
After some shocking grades in my first year, I felt like I could barely keep up. But following support from lecturers and classmates, and practically moving into the library, by the end of the second year I saw massive improvements in my marks.
That wasn’t the best thing that happened though: I’d finally found what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I was doing both film studies and creative writing and had discovered a gap in the market for publishing Ugandan stories. I also discovered the term ‘cultural anthropologist’ and thought I would do just that through creative writing. All I needed was to do my masters, then a Phd and become an academic. I went to work looking for options for graduate study.
Three universities in the UK gave me offers – but their generosity did not extend to funding. Then I came across the Mst in Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Centre for Continuing Education. It emphasised cross-cultural (tick) and cross-genre (tick, tick) as well as scholarly investigation and creative research. It felt personally tailored to my graduate ambitions. I poured everything into that application, packed my bags and returned home to start a podcast and work on films. I waited for news from Oxford.
Then I got accepted (even after an interview where I spent half the time apologising for how badly I was performing). This offer too did not come with funding, but I spent months looking for alternative scholarships and grants. With the deadline for financial declaration growing closer I decided to take a risk and open a crowdfunding page.
I was so embarrassed that it had come to this. In the beginning, I only shared it with a few close friends and it was their open and genuine support that encouraged me to go public. Those who could gave willingly, and those who couldn’t sent messages of encouragement and shared the page with their own friends. I received a lot of support from home and abroad.
Earlier this year, a very deserving Ugandan friend had to give up her spot in Columbia even if the university was generous enough to give her a scholarship that would have relieved her of a third of the tuition cost. She isn’t the only one.
I have 17 days left to my crowdfunding campaign. Since this is an ‘all or nothing’ approach, if I do not meet the target, I lose even the money that has been pledged so far. Please drop by if you can help, and if not, I ask that you share the link in case there is anyone else who can. I am all out of other options.
Lulu has just under two weeks to raise nearly £5,000 to keep her place at Oxford. You can donate to her crowdfunding campaign here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-university-of-oxford-chose-me