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Featured Alumni: Hilary L. Chow

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Our ’Featured Alumni’ section aims to showcase Oxford Alumni based in Mexico. By doing so, we promote a more dynamic alumni community, socially and professionally. Tell us about you. I am an expat from British Hong Kong working in Mexico City. I have also lived in Cambridge and Brisbane, Australia. I am an Educator and a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, an ambassador, and an a capella vocalist.

What did you study at Oxford? I studied a Master of Science in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. At Oxford, I sat on the University’s Social Sciences Board, the Graduate Studies Committee, and the Library Committee as a student union representative. In addition, I was co-ordinating tutor at the Oxford Hub, mentor at IntoUniversity, and trainer at the Oxford Nightline.

What was your research focus? I focused on language dominance – I developed a test to measure the degree of bilingualism.

Matriculation Year: 2014

College: Kellogg College – one of the youngest colleges (though it can be traced back to 1850), established to accommodate part-timers. It’s by far the largest graduate college and the second-largest overall. It has the best food and silent discos along with the most economical Balls!

What is your current job? I am a Teacher of English at Greengates, the British international school in Mexico City; concurrently I’ve continued as marker for civil service graduate candidates in Hong Kong.

Additionally, I was elected Country Champion for Mexico for the Oxford Education Society, an alumni group under the Department of Education for members and educators associated with Oxford. You can visit the Facebook page here. Name your favourite 5 places in Oxford

  1. Magdalen College, because it holds many fond memories (an old flame read at Magdalen). Their summer Ball was also great (I tried shisha and tarot for the first time there; and came second place in the laser tag game). I liked the cloisters at night – they were spooky, and being the only person of colour in the Oscar Wilde Room while people lamented the lack of racial diversity was interesting. Last but not least, my common room had Wine and Whine events with Magdalen and Linacre colleges back then!

  2. Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music – when I was learning piano, the mæstra taught me the way to approach ancient pieces based on the instruments used at the time. It was thus particularly meaningful to me to be able to see, touch, and play these relics of baroque and classical periods.

  3. Top of the Sheldonian Theatre – the perfect place to oversee the centre and take a picture of the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian Library.

  4. The real tennis court at OU Tennis Club – I played real tennis with fellow Round Tablers (who organize Fawkes’ night annually). It was all novel, the unicorn at the back included.

  5. The Radcliffe Observatory, Green Templeton College – An impressive structure, the tower built based on Athenian mythology was never a spot to be missed for a history lover.

What was your favourite lecture or module? Not exactly a lecture but I was thoroughly impressed by the presentation of the Orator, Prof Jenkyns, at the encaenia. It was a humorous speech on how Oxford was ’winning’ through the millennium, with an account of an Oxonian commented, back in the war, that Cambridge didn’t have more spies, but rather that Oxford spies were smarter and thus were not caught.

The oration also taught me that The Duke of Wellington was a chancellor (he added, in Lord Patten’s presence, ’why else would a chancellor of Oxford go to Brussels?’) and that Prof Richardson, our then-Vice-Chancellor-designate, would be the first VC to have never lived in England.

What is your favourite Oxford tradition? Subfusc. I enjoy dressing up and the academic dress tradition gave me ample opportunities to be in formal attire. Besides, it remains comparatively inflexible and so there’s the luxury of not worrying about whether the tie, the belt/ braces, the waistcoat, the suit, the socks, the shoes etc. match between themselves.

I’m not alone on this – recent referenda demonstrated overwhelming sentiment for subfusc from students with a record-breaking turnout. Nevertheless, this tradition may not be as ancient as everyone assumed: the gowns and caps likely adopt their current styles in the Tudor times, and ’subfusc’ as a term has only come into English in 1710!

Describe one life-changing lesson that you learned when living in Oxford. I’d say the biggest lesson happened before I went to Oxford. I went to a college speech day as a governor, and among the guests, there was a representative from the government, the founding headmaster, a Vice-Chancellor of a world’s 1% university, as well as the patron, who’s a sultan, an MBE, a Justice of the Peace, a member of China’s central committee, an honorary dean, and a billionaire who literally owns a city in China. Naturally, no-one chatted with me. Yet, when I casually mentioned that I held an offer from Oxford everyone immediately came to talk to me.

Oxford is a big deal.

What would you like the Oxford Alumni Association in Mexico to focus on? Organize more social events so an alumni network can be developed.

What would you recommend to Mexicans that are planning to apply to Oxford? Do not hesitate to apply! You never know what your admission tutor wants. On my master’s course, we have graduates from drastically different academic backgrounds – from fresh bachelor’s graduates to someone with a doctorate. The only thing in common was that we were all ambitious.

If application fee is an issue, write to the office. When I was the social sciences graduate counselor, I successfully lobbied the University to consider a waiver on an individual basis. Do understand though that the department/ house would be paying the fee for you to the University, instead of simply not collecting it.

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