Leavers 2017: Paulina Lenik’s Story
29th August 2017
Paulina Lenik, Blackfriars 2017 Leaver, reflects on her time at the Hall.
Thinking back to the day I learnt that I was accepted into Oxford still gives me thrills. Although my time of studying here has come to an end, I suppose this past year has given me valuable life lessons. Before becoming a member of the Blackfriars community, for which I am proudly grateful, I worked in New York for the Polish Diplomatic Mission to the UN, where I saw world leaders attempting to bring about change. A while before that, I had spent my time in the analytical department of the European Parliament in Brussels, and immediately after my graduation from the Jagiellonian University I was a researcher in the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS). However, the UN experience was the one that widened my perspective significantly on the practicalities of international affairs, and prompted the idea to become a student of the Foreign Service Programme at the University of Oxford.
Why did you choose Blackfriars?
I am a Catholic, strongly tied with the Dominican Friars’ community back in my hometown – Krakow. Therefore, the opportunity to spend my academic year with the friars appeared to me to be a fantastic way to spend time with people who share the same beliefs, values and principles as me. Moreover, seeing the daily life of the friars, contemplating academic struggles in the chapel or in the magnificent library, helped me to achieve a great success in my final exams.
My takeaway from my time in Blackfriars is the sense of community and openness. As the number of students is rather small, it was very easy to meet most of them, and quickly establish friendly relations.
Tell us about your study programme; what particular focus did you have?
As I mentioned, I studied the Foreign Service Programme, leading to the MSt in Diplomacy. This academic year, I will remain a non-resident student completing my thesis on Energy Politics in the Eastern Mediterranean. My major focus is the impact of the energy trade on potential interstate cooperation and peace among traditionally disputed countries, such as Israel, Palestine, Cyprus and Turkey.
The Foreign Service Programme has a wide curriculum, starting from International Public Law, Diplomatic Practice, International Politics and International Trade and Finance. The wonderful group of friends I made here come from 19 different countries including Bhutan, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Dominican Republic and Ghana. I feel extremely honoured to have encountered such a variety of cultures, religions and languages, and admire their willingness to share their experiences and tremendous knowledge.
Where do you think you will go next after Blackfriars?
Straight after the end of term I travelled around South-East Asia, Australia and the Southern Pacific, which was a great time for me to learn about different cultures, and different ways of living around the world. At the moment, professional opportunities remain open for me, and I will probably attempt to pursue my career in international organisations.
Leaving aside your studies, what’s your favourite thing about Oxford?
I was privileged to live in the House of St. Gregory and St. Macrina, which is an old Victorian house where Eastern and Western Christianity intertwines. Effectively, as a member of Blackfriars Hall and a resident in the ecumenical centre for inter-religious dialogue in St. Macrina, my time at Oxford was culturally rich; I truly enjoyed this richness in all my surroundings.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and good luck!