Alice Lang's Rhodes Scholarship Experience
Alice Lang was a valued member of the New College community from 2006 until 2010. In 2011, Alice was selected to become one of eight Australians to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. A few years on, we caught up with Alice to hear about her time at Oxford and what life looks like now...
1. What did you learn about yourself during your time as a Rhodes Scholar?
How much I care about communities, and being part of one. Taking up a Rhodes Scholarship puts you in touch with a remarkable set of people, and throws you into a place that works best if you get involved and share ideas and questions with the people around you. It gives you (as does all of the overseas study that New Collegians embark on every year) a sense of a network of people all over the world that you can ask for opinions and advice. However, to me, it always felt as though even if Rhodes Scholarships are given to a handful of people each year, the intention of awarding the scholarship is much broader than that. Access to a global community is never supposed to supersede the importance of what’s happening in the communities we grow up with and that helped to propel us into all of these interesting situations.
2. What was your favourite memory from the scholarship?
That’s really, really hard to answer! The train trip (from Beijing to St Petersburg) on the way there remains one of the highlights – meeting and getting to know the people who would then become my friends and housemates was such an adventure. Some of my best memories of scholarship at Oxford are stumbling into Jeremy Waldron’s lectures and deciding to go to all of them (for about two years); long discussions on whatever obscure topic the person sitting beside you at dinner studied; and then the conversations that continued while tearing along on a bike through whatever inconvenient drizzle the heavens were dispensing that day.
3. What are some key differences you observed about university life in Australia compared to the UK?
I think New College, UNSW, was a tremendous introduction to university life, and it’s a college that rivals any I saw! The biggest difference in terms of the way I studied was the pressure of aurally defending one or two essays to my tutor and maybe one other student, every week. It was always a challenge and I hope it made me much more agile in the way I thought through issues and debated them without much notice.
4. What has life looked like for you since completing the scholarship?
I’ve recently started at a job at AGL Energy, after some time at The Boston Consulting Group, and I feel as though I’m getting closer to the aspirations I had to “work on big energy stuff” when I finished at UNSW. I’m enjoying the chance to work on some of the hard questions we need to answer about energy and electricity in Australia.
5. What do you hope to achieve in next couple of years?
I hope I’ll be part of Australia’s transition to an equitable, cleaner, and more sustainable energy system. I’ve just joined a touch footy team and started pottery classes, so managing a try or two, and pots that aren’t only big enough to be a dolls tea-set, would be a win as well.
6. Do you miss anything about your time at New College?
So much! I miss the (almost) endless chatter and planning for good things to come; recently, I even missed the mid-year exam period when everyone seems to be slouching around in jerseys and trackies, “studying”, and taking advantage of restorative suppers while it’s pouring with rain outside.
7. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I still love to learn languages and read, so at the moment I’m trying to finish off a Python course on Coursera, and I’m reading a book about Australia’s Indigenous agricultural history. I moved closer to the beach this year, so I’m also working on getting a bit more confident at ocean swimming.
We look forward to hearing about Alice's future endeavours.