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Meet Ana Liz: From rural Oaxaca to Kings College, London

Meet Ana Liz, born in rural Oaxaca, as she grew up, no one ever though her dreams could take her to study in one of the world’s best universities. As she grew up, she was hungry for knowledge and fought against the odds to study at UNAM with not only uni challenges, but also finding herself in a big city for the first time. When she finished her studies, she then had to tackle the challenge of learning English to apply to a scholarship abroad, she worked, she studied and she made it….


You come from a small town in Oaxaca but spent a few years in Mexico City, had you travelled abroad before coming to London? What were your first impressions?

Yes, I had been in California, USA. When I was working as a research assistant at the Economics Research Institute at UNAM, I was encouraged by my academic tutor to apply for a scholarship to enrol in the Environmental Leadership Programme (ELP) at the University of California (UC), Berkeley.

I would say my first trip abroad opened my mind in different aspects. For instance, my flight was from Mexico City to San Francisco. When I arrived at the SFO Airport my first challenge was to communicate with others in English, and I realised that everybody was too busy to help me. So, I had to manage my transportation from the Airport to the UC Berkeley campus by myself.

During the journey, I was impressed by the skyscrapers, bridges, and the San Francisco bay, which is considered one of the most important commercial and financial centres in the world. By then, I had been living in Mexico City for 6 six years, but San Francisco was different and unique.

On the other hand, participating in ELP was an enriching experience because I had the chance to know people from about 10 different countries in an academic, friendly, and multicultural environment.  We spent three weeks together not only attending workshops, but also field trips that allowed us to strength our friendship.

I remember I enjoyed so much my time at UC Berkeley not only because all the things I learned, but also because of the experiences and encouragement I got to study abroad.


You said that starting university at UNAM in Mexico City was daunting for a girl from rural Oaxaca, how did that compare to starting your course at Kings College London?

When I applied for a place at UNAM I knew it would be very competitive in terms of academic, and I had to demonstrate my abilities in that regard. Therefore, I had to study very hard to pass the exam and to maintain good marks during my studies. Among the benefits of UNAM is the fact that it is a public university, and students do not have to pay fees for receiving an education of quality.

However, the process of studying abroad requires to overcoming other barriers apart of the academic challenges. Firstly, the language. As a rural woman, I did not have the opportunity to learn English at my early stage, and I believe most women in this context do not. Although I received some inductions of English at my rural schools, that was not enough. Therefore, I started to study this language when I was already 18 years old, and without doubt, it was super challenging.


I would say reaching the English level that King’s College London required was one of the biggest challenges. However, it did not end when I got my score. I remember the first day I arrived at KCL, the classroom was full of people from different countries, all of them speaking in English, and for a moment I felt so lost. I had the same feeling during my first lectures, so I realised that my studies would demand me more effort in that regard. Especially for writing my essays, exams, and dissertation.

The other thing I think is important to mention is money. I believe it is very difficult to study abroad without financial support. We have to pay a University fee, and the living costs are much higher than they are in Mexico. My family would not have been able to pay for those. So, before I came London, I had to save money as well as put a lot of efforts in looking for scholarships and student loans. The good news is that there are multiple national and international funding which aim to support women. Additionally, some universities offer scholarships for international students. The important thing is to keep an eye on the important dates and requirements of each of them.


3- What has been your biggest challenge so far and what is your dream once you finish your Masters Degree?

I would say that my biggest challenge has been to overcome my mental barriers. Many times, I felt inferior to others and I believed I was not capable to achieve my dreams. I was aware that being raised and educated in a rural context implied certain limitations, and I thought I would not change that. However, replacing those ideas I grew up with took me a while. I have developed more self-confidence, determination, and leadership skills. However, the job is not totally done, I am still working on that.

I have a big passion for developing public policies to eradicate poverty, end gender inequalities, and to serve others. I will confess you my dream, it is to work at the World Bank Group and collaborate to the initiatives they carry on in order to fight extreme poverty in the globe. Meanwhile, I will continue working in encouraging the youth to build bigger dreams and to reach them. I strongly believe education is the key to overcome social deprivations, and this is why I want to put a lot of emphasis on that.


What are your favourite London spots, why? Where are the best tacos, even tlayudas?

This is a very tough question. I love London, even during the cloudy and raining weather. If I had to choose some spots, I would say Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and Bush House building, which is the main campus at King’s where I received my lectures.

Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral became my motivation during the recent lockdown in London. As part of my activities during those difficult times due to Covid-19, I started to run, and my daily route was from Tower Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral along the Thames river. That was really inspiring and heartening.

I have tried very good tacos at Mestizo, but I strongly recommend their buffet on Sunday. Regarding tlayudas, I have not tried them in London. Actually, I do not know any restaurant that sell them. But, for the best tlayudas ever, visit Oaxaca, Mexico. You should go to “20 de Noviembre” Market in Oaxaca city and try them.


What neighbourhood do you live in and what’s the best thing about it?

I live in Spitafields, it is an amazing place if you are looking for a vibrant, multicultural, exciting, colourful, and vivid place. The location is amazing, it is near to Shoreditch, characterised by street art, restaurants, bars, pubs, and stores. Also, it is next to City of London, so you can see an interesting combination of historic and modern facilities like the Sky Garden and The Gherkin.

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