New Starts

Mike Valli is studying for a postgraduate degree in water science, policy and management at Oxford University in 2008/9. Originally from Sydney, the 24-year-old rower is keen to trial for the Oxford University Boat Race crew

‘Heathrow at 6am never looked so inviting. After 24 hours of flying and two stopovers I was exhausted but thrilled to settle in the UK. The excitement of travelling is in leaving our social networks and discover if you can survive. Although I have family in Hertfordshire, I want to meet every person and smell every rose on my adventures around Britain.


Growing up in Sydney my father insisted we were an Oxford (not Cambridge) family, four generations unbroken. Australia was colonised 220 years ago and anything older than 50 years is considered to have “historical” value, so biking along ancient cobblestone streets and studying in 1000 year old colleges beside future world leaders is mind-blowing. I felt justified jumping around fanatically when the acceptance letter arrived.

Australia, already a dry continent, is suffering its worst drought in 1000 years and drinking water is critically short. Restrictions on farming, car-washing, showering and gardening are severe, affecting everyone. Taking the Masters in Water Science, Policy and Management will allow me contribute to the solution when I return.

Rowing is the other water activity in my life. I began in high school and the sport has allowed me to compete for Australia on the world stage. Like an Oxford postgraduate course, the University Boat Club brings the world’s best talent together to collaborate for a year. Competing and learning with Olympians and international representatives during the next year will be so cool. The variety of racing in Britain – head races, match races, sprints – is unknown to our small rowing community back home. I’ve given up explaining bumps to my rowing friends.

Every silver lining has a grey cloud and I fear as the snow moves in for winter, my typical Sunday morning routine will haunt me – running to sunny Bronte beach before surfing and coffee at Bellagio café. Might have to settle for bashing my head on a low pub ceiling followed by pints of warm bitter by a fire.’

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