Alumni Update - Aaron Stockdill

I’m going to Cambridge. Those words are not real yet. Eighteen months, hundreds of emails, and now it is happening.

In the beginning, you don’t choose a university—you choose a supervisor, and a project. Almost total academic freedom to pick your topic for the next three years of your life sounds like the dream, and it is. But the paradox of choice comes to haunt your every thought: what if this topic is too hard? Too easy? Or worse, has it already been done? The support of a potential supervisor starts here. With help from my supervisor Dr Mateja Jamnik, a topic was found: automated knowledge representation transformation for artificial intelligence to solve unfamiliar problems. At Eureka!, I wanted to share my interest with New Zealand, and reassure everyone that artificial intelligence will not destroy humanity. Now I will be sharing that passion with the world.

A change in hemisphere increases the difficulty factor, as the northern hemisphere works six months offset from the southern: you are forced to wait and see, leaving you in limbo. Six months after first contact, you apply to Cambridge. Atypically, Cambridge require you to have a thorough proposal before you start the application process. This makes things easier, in the long run: when it comes time to have an interview with you supervisor, you’ve been working with them for six months already. That is not to say the process is easy—forms, interviews, more forms, waiting, waiting, waiting. But the hardest part is funding.

Being half a world away means the Cambridge dream happens on scholarships, or not at all. Scholarship applications must start twelve months out from commencement, simply because of the competitiveness of the whole process. Essays, interviews, transcripts, references, all need to be sent this way and that way. And then you wait. It feels endless. Even when Cambridge send an offer, the scholarship wait continues. Then, one evening, the email came through. The Hamilton Cambridge International Scholarship is awarded to an international student who will study at Selwyn College, and covers university fees, college fees, and a living allowance. The final sprint still remains: visas, flights, moving my life to the UK. It’s terrifying, it’s intimidating, it’s exciting. But now, after more than a year of wondering, I can say definitively: I’m going to Cambridge.