I am currently sat at the boarding gate in Heathrow waiting to board the plane. On my way to the airport, a whole range of emotions started brewing within me. I’m not sure if this is generally how immigrants feel when they’re about to visit their country of birth (or is it just me?), but suddenly, nostalgia seemed to have taken over my emotions. In this heightened emotional state, I began to ponder and reflect on what made me take this leap of faith to leave the realm of the known and to start all over again in an environment that was alien to me in the first place.
While browsing through my emails dated February 2009, I found one of my personal statements that I wrote to Oxford Brookes University. The British Council in Colombo stressed that writing a decent enough personal statement was best practice. So I wrote down my reasons for pursuing my tertiary education in the UK, here are excerpts of it:
“Some men see things as they are, and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and say, “Why not?’ ” – George Bernard Shaw
“It is no secret that I live in a country that has been shattered by war for more than two decades. Though I am not directly affected by the devastation caused by Sri Lanka’s civil strife, what it has achieved is in preventing Sri Lanka from unleashing its development potential as the war has bled the economy dry for over two decades. However today, unlike any moment in recent history since independence, the youth of this nation stand hopeful, united and resilient as ever. As President John F. Kennedy once so aptly said “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”
“It is under this backdrop that I wish to seek and gather knowledge, skills, expertise and overall insights of the developed world, in order to be armed and ready for ushering in the next phase of prosperity. It must be reminded, that the civilized and developed world successfully brought down communism to its knees not by missiles, bombs or mere rhetoric; but by scores of youth who witnessed, studied and graduated from universities of the west and took back home with them the message that there lies a system and a world whereby freedom, equality, knowledge, progress, development and liberty, are not mere dreams or aspirations of a few but indeed a reality that does truly exist.”
“The UK higher education institutes are directly or indirectly responsible for the paradigm shifts of countries such as China, India, Singapore etc. where scores of students armed with greater knowledge and deeper insight of the values and ideals of the west, returned to their homelands to influence their national leaders which led to the shift in their economic systems. This was evident in China under Deng Xiaoping, whose leadership led to a more open economy. It was the aspirations of students with ambitious ideals, goals and dreams for their country that led to the then Finance Minister of India (and the incumbent Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh that opened India’s economy, thereby connecting India to the world. It was partly the success of the UK higher education system that led to the rise of leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew (Cambridge University alumnus) who was singularly responsible for Singapore’s rise to the first world within a mere four decades. These achievements by the UK higher education system may not be conspicuous; however, their impact on changing the psychology of nations and territories through education can never be ignored.”
“I love my country with all my heart; however, if I am to help my country even in my small measure, I want to do so armed with the skills and experiences of the developed world. As Lord Chesterfield once said, “The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world and not in a closet”. I don’t want to be bound by the closet of my world around me, Oxford Brookes University, and to a larger extent the United Kingdom, with such a multi-cultural and globally connected setting, I believe, would prepare me for the future in ways unimaginable in my own country…”
To be honest this was the first time I read this statement since enrolling at Brookes. Rereading this, I began to ask myself whether I am still in pursuit of these goals (being part of Sri Lanka’s economic resurgence) or have I achieved any of the aforementioned goals (seeking knowledge and expertise)? Although I have managed to learn new skills, I am yet to directly be a part of Sri Lanka’s growth. Maybe during this trip, something may inspire me to contribute positively in Sri Lanka. Apart from seeing family and hanging out at the beach, maybe I should do more?