Oxford place reward for hard work, passion

Dunedin’s Anna Hutchens (18) is swapping one St Hilda’s for another after being accepted into one...
Dunedin’s Anna Hutchens (18) is swapping one St Hilda’s for another after being accepted into one of the world’s most competitive medical schools. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Applying for one of the 10 slots for non-British students at Oxford Medical School was a last-minute move for Dunedin’s Anna Hutchens.

The 18-year-old former St Hilda’s Collegiate School pupil knew the medical school, ranked the second-best in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2022, was very competitive, and there was "no way" she expected to get in.

Two days before last year’s October deadline — and two weeks after it was recommended applications be submitted — she finally applied.

Three months later, the keen swimmer was in the pool changing rooms surreptitiously checking emails on her cellphone.

It was the day she was due to hear back, although she had kept this quiet.

When she saw she had been accepted, she started screaming with excitement.

"My mum banged on the door [asking] ‘Anna what’s happened?’

"She started screaming too. I think people were a bit weirded out — all hell broke loose."

She would be the first in her family to study medicine, and it had been her aim since she was 14.

This was the age a Ngai Tahu scholarship allowed her to tour colleges in San Francisco and inspired her to attend university overseas, she said.

Since mid-2021 she had effectively studied a double course load in order to make her application stand out.

She studied a standard five-subject NCEA workload at St Hilda’s, where she graduated as co-dux at the end of last year.

Via online school Crimson Global Academy, she also began began studying three subjects at A level, a standard course for British high school pupils.

However, as her focus was on maths and the sciences, there was a lot of overlap, she said.

On an average day she might study for up to 11 hours, including class time.

"It’s a bit draining, but when you’ve got a goal it’s easier to deal with the day to day."

She was able to stay motivated because she kept her big goal in mind, she said.

Her advice to others who might want to follow in her steps was to set goals and stay passionate.

"Enjoy what you’re doing — it’s hard to do a big long day of stuff you don’t like."

The hardest part was not knowing if all her hard would pay off, she said.

As only 25% of course applicants were interviewed, reaching that stage had been her original goal, and she applied for four other British universities with the expectation she would not make it further.

She was looking forward to studying at the grand-looking campus that served as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

Randomly assigned to a college — similar to a hall of residence — she was also surprised but happy to see she was going to St Hilda’s College.

The six-year course was due to start in October.

Until then, she would be finishing her A levels and hoped to find work at the local supermarket.