Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


From a Strong Foundation to a Place Called Home

Tuesday 19 February, 2019

by Michael O’Keefe (Newfoundland & Oriel 2018)

As the 2018 Rhodes Scholars arrive back in Oxford for our second term, it is undeniable how far we’ve come since Welcome Day at Rhodes House in September. We have built foundations for good lives here, both within the scholar community and beyond.

Spending Christmas in Newfoundland and Labrador was restorative. Family traditions and time spent with friends afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with home and reflect on all I have experienced since first arriving in Oxford.

Michaelmas Term was spent meeting people from around the world, trying new things, breaking bread at black tie dinners in ancient halls, and engaging with global leaders across disciplines and industries. Most importantly, it was time spent in the present moment, enjoying everything this place has to offer. All of this broadened my perspective on the blessings we share and the challenges we face as we develop as effective and ethical leaders in the world today.

Some highlights for me: performing with the Oxford University Orchestra in the historic Sheldonian Theatre, where Handel conduced his “Oxford” symphony after receiving an honourary degree in 1791; taking up rowing and competing in the Christ Church Regatta; celebrating Thanksgiving not once, but twice (Canadian and American); and travelling to Budapest with some great new friends and skating on the largest ice rink in Europe.

While leaving home after Christmas was no easier than the first time, I knew I had something to return to. I had a bank account, a phone plan and friends I was excited to see—I had a strong foundation for a good life. This made me realise just how lucky I am.

To belong to a community as global, inclusive and thoughtful as the Rhodes Scholar community is something I do not take lightly. I am consistently amazed, inspired and challenged by my peers and their courage to act in service to others, and for the betterment of the world we share.

Looking ahead, I am confidant that our strong foundations in Oxford will become more and more like a home away from home—a home rich with learning, friendship and service.

Rhodes Scholars Budapest

Michael O'Keefe (Newfoundland & Oriel 2018) is a Rhodes Scholar working at the music and international relations nexus. In addition to his concert performance schedule, Michael's research explores the relationship between the arts, diplomacy and public policy in pursuit of solutions to global challenges. Last year, he completed his Bachelor of Music (Honours) with a double major in Trumpet Performance and Musicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he was awarded the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Music, as well as the Chancellor's Undergraduate Award, the university's highest honour for leadership.

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