Things weren’t going well for me early last year – heartbreak on numerous fronts, anxiety on an all-time high and anger coursing through my body and mind for a long period of time. I wasn’t allowed to pursue further studies abroad after being told continuously I would be. The gap year I had taken after graduating was supposed to be a time for some well-deserved R&R, but it was turning out to be the total opposite.
People around me made it a point to remind me of how options would always be limited for me, being a woman living in Pakistan. Every room in the house felt suffocating, and I knew I needed some time away from everyone.
Before you all say anything about my apparent lack of faith and namaaz, know that I am a frequent prayer and I find and communicate with Allah in my own way. And know that none of this would have been possible without His Will.
Anyway, yes, I needed to get away but I knew my parents would never let me. It was a trying time, to say the least. The thought of forever being trapped in one place was enough to make send my brain spiraling and my heart to feel like it would burst. Even spontaneous combustion seemed like an appealing way to go at that point.
That was, until, I saw an Instagram ad on summer courses being offered at Oxford University. A light bulb went off in my head. Going to Oxford University is literally everyone’s dream, but in reality, for most, it’s a pipe dream. If I couldn’t pursue that or even try to, maybe taking a two-week long summer course might be an easier way to get a taste of studying at one of the best educational hubs of the world.
Before taking any steps, I decided to check out the whole deal thoroughly first to make sure it was legitimate and not a scam that would further complicate things. I then checked out the accommodations, time frame for the courses, and what would be expected throughout the duration of the course.
After confirming everything was alright on this end, I took a deep breath followed by the leap of faith: I decided to apply for the Leadership course, and promptly filled and submitted the application. The next step, i.e. to tell my parents, I figured would depend on whether I would get in or not.
The application page stated that I would get the acceptance or rejection email within the week. You can very well imagine how that went. I was nervous as all heck, but I’d be lying if I say I didn’t feel a thrill course through my veins at the same time; I was doing something for myself regardless of whatever came next and it made me feel brave.
Here’s where the help from God comes in, for the readers shaking their heads at my impulsivity right now. The email arrived by the end of the week and *drum roll* I GOT IN!
Now for the hard part.
I was still trying to figure out how to break the news to my parents. How do I tell them I secretly applied for a summer course at Oxford University without being skinned alive for my ‘disobedience’? We were at a restaurant when my younger brother suddenly congratulated me for the acceptance, right in front of them. Not exactly what I had in mind for a reveal, but it happened.
My father, strangely enough, was quite content with that; it’s Oxford University so how bad can it be, right? My mother, less so, clearly quite mad at all the things I expected her to be mad at. Fortunately, thanks to thorough research, I was able to answer all her questions, concerns, and quell her worries. Besides, if anything went wrong, I had relatives living in London which is only an hour away from Oxford. So help would be nearby if needed.
There was one condition, though; that she and my brother would come along and stay with said relatives in London. It was a small sacrifice for such a huge opportunity, so I figured it was not a bad deal. Next thing you know, the fee was transferred and informational forms were being filled by me.
I was ACTUALLY GOING TO OXFORD UNIVERSITY FOR TWO WEEKS IN JULY!
Of course, the last of our worries did not leave until we actually got to Somerville College for the orientation. It was then, as my mother likes to tell people, we felt satisfied enough for me to “shoo her away to London.”
It’s safe to say that the following two weeks were the best two weeks of the whole year for me. I was taught through an impeccable curriculum by an Oxford University certified tutor. We were taken on numerous excursions, including going to the famous Bodleian Library and exploring the Mary Rose shipwreck in Portsmouth. I saw a lot of the locations in the university used to film the Harry Potter movies and would go out for walks around the city in the dead of night without fear or worry. I even found a small bar where authors J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of The Rings) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) would frequent and just chill at!
My classes were held in the same college Emma Watson and Gemma Chan studied at (Worcester College). My room was in the college Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi studied at (Somerville). I made friends from all over the world, some of whom I’m still in touch with. By the end of the course, I was in tears about leaving the city that had grown so dear to me in such a short amount of time. I was grateful, all at the same.
Sometimes even trying something out regardless of whether it works or not, is enough. At the very least, it gives one room to grow and learn as well as the satisfaction of not leaving a stone unturned. There’s something incredibly healing about that. Sometimes, it takes a seemingly disrespectful leap of faith to put yourself out there. To raise your voice and to stand up for yourself and what you think is right for you. If the intention is good, then you best believe God will be on your side through the seemingly impossible. You won’t know the impact it will have on your life until you at least try.
Cover image via pucrs.br