A St. John’s high school student has earned the right to attend one of England's most prestigious universities for her undergraduate studies beginning this fall.
Neria Aylward is one of three Canadians to be named a Blyth Scholar for 2014. With that comes a $150,000 scholarship to attend the University of Cambridge for three years of undergraduate studies.
“It’s very surreal,” said Aylward, who first heard the news of her good fortune last Monday by telephone.
“I honestly can’t believe it. I wasn’t sure I was going to get into Cambridge at all, let alone the scholarship.”
In order to be considered for the Blyth Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarships, the 17-year-old had to submit a personal essay and letters of reference and fill out application forms to attend Cambridge. She was later shortlisted and flew to Toronto for an interview with officials from the school.
“The interview was really, really tough. It’s designed to kind of unhinge applicants, because most people who apply to Cambridge are pretty good (students). They pretty much just ask you questions that get harder and harder until you can’t answer, and that’s my understanding of what happened to everyone else. Everyone came out feeling very unhinged and very disoriented. I really had no idea how it went.”
Aylward has family in England and she spent some holidays there as a child. She had expressed an interest in studying abroad after high school, and it was her mother who learned about the Blyth Scholarship.
She has been conditionally accepted to Pembroke College — assuming she maintains the appropriate grades once her high school exams are finished — to study human, social, and political sciences.
Aylward admits to not initially knowing what she wanted to study. Unlike their counterparts in Canada, British high school students begin to specialize their studies at an early age, and may choose to avoids math or sciences in their late teens if it does not fit in with their academic interests.
“I’ve always been really interested in anthropology, and human, social, and political sciences is probably one of the more general (programs) that you can apply directly to because it encompasses all social sciences,” said Aylward, who may focus on social anthropology and biological anthropology.
At Holy Heart of Mary, Aylward has varied extra-curricular interests. She’s a member of the student council, debate club, Green Leaf club, gay-straight alliance, multiple choirs and concert band.
Aylward begins her studies at Cambridge in October.