Zou Xinyi

We all have our own timelines

Zou Xinyi, Class of 2021, was accepted into a highly competitive Masters in Education concentrating in digital and social change from the University of Oxford, despite not taking any education classes until her senior year at NYUAD. 

During her first year, after exploring a range of classes from SRPP to Political Science, she stumbled upon Philosophy and finally decided on it as her major. Though she had now found her major, she remained unsure about what she wanted from life post-graduation.

Feeling pressure to have a “big name” on her resume, she pursued a finance and hotel management internship after sophomore year, discovering that she did not like working in a corporate environment. “In the end, the hotel management internship wasn’t even on the CVs I used in applying to grad schools despite it being the most “big name” thing I have,” she reflects.

For students who relate to this pressure, Zou suggests exploring different things and sticking with the discomfort of uncertainty, acknowledging that those moments of self-doubt can still seep in at times. 

During her junior year, Zou found herself doubting her path once again.”I thought I should be settling into some field by this point and trying to get a return offer somewhere,” she said. However, with in-person internships being cancelled due to COVID-19, she did a remote internship in education and curriculum design that summer, finally understanding that education was the common thread in her seemingly unconnected experiences. “I found what I had been looking for and this field really fits with who I am and what I want to do.”

I want to be somewhere that allows, and even encourages, failures, especially in education.

Zou Xinyi, Class of 2021

Inspired to apply to graduate programs relating to education, she scoured through the websites of programs in the United Kingdom. She resonated with and felt curious about each sentence of the University of Oxford’s digital and social change program website. She decided to apply, still feeling self-doubt about her GPA. Because of her exploration in a range of subjects, she also inevitably took classes that weren’t her strongest suits. “At times, I felt like I wouldn’t go anywhere because of these Cs on my transcript,” she remembered. What helped her reframe this anxiety was knowing that she would be a valuable addition to these programs. “If this program won’t take me because my GPA is not perfect, then I don’t want to be in that environment because I want to be somewhere that allows, and even encourages, failures, especially in education,” she said, advising students to not let one failure slow them down, or think they can't excel. She urges students to learn from their failures and use them as a strength and a moment to learn a lesson forever — face them head on and you'll open up opportunities.