Woman on Rhode to success after scholarship win
TOOWOOMBA woman Sophie Ryan said she couldn't hide her shock when, in front of a selection panel in Canberra, she was told she had won a coveted Rhodes scholarship.
With only 102 handed out across the world this year, Ms Ryan will now join an illustrious albeit short list of Australians who have received the award, which includes prime ministers and attorneys-general.
Although she was surprised to beat the stiff competition, her prior work placed her in great stead as a candidate.
From early on, Ms Ryan was a champion of social causes, something she attributed to her family and schooling at St Ursula's College.
"My mum and dad always gave their energy to helping others, that's always been how we do things," Ms Ryan said.
"A lot of the service activities that I have become involved with stem back to the ethos instilled in me while I was at St Ursula's.
"I was encouraged to not accept the status quo when I didn't agree with it and to use whatever talents I had to make a difference where I could."
While at school in Toowoomba, Ms Ryan set up the school's social justice group and organised fundraisers for numerous causes.
In 2013, she left Toowoomba to study a dual degree of law and arts at the University of Queensland and continued with her philanthropy.
An extra-curricular took her to New York to work alongside members of the UN in 2016 and, shortly after, she travelled to Singapore for 18 months on a New Colombo Plan scholarship to study international dispute resolution.
Now, as part of the Rhodes scholarship, Ms Ryan will be starting two years of study at Oxford University in the UK starting in September 2020. She is planning to study a bachelor of civil law and a master of philosophy and law.
"It's exciting but very surreal (to win), I still can't believe it," Ms Ryan said.
"My friends joke that I will never leave university. I have always loved learning and I feel Oxford embodies that."
As she prepared for her UQ graduation ceremony yesterday, she said the award was a "cherry on top" for 2019.
"I'm very much aware that while our achievements are our own, they are also the product of the people who have invested in you - and that is a huge number in Toowoomba," she said.