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Learn about Riley's journey to becoming a Rhodes Scholar

3 minutes

Riley in front of ocean

Meet Riley – Ecopoet, outdoor devotee, prolific reader and writer and Rhodes Scholar, about to embark on postgraduate study at Oxford University.

Riley (he/him) graduated last year with a Bachelor of Philosophy, majoring in Agricultural Science and English and Cultural Studies with Honours in Creative Writing. (Riley warned us it was a mouthful!) We sat down with Riley to learn about his journey to winning one of the world’s most coveted scholarships.

“I grew up in Palmyra and went to school in Walyalup/Fremantle. I’ve always loved reading and learning, and as a kid I stashed books everywhere – the back seat of the car, behind the toilet – so that I could have exciting words and worlds in front of me in every spare moment. I loved being outdoors playing hockey in Freo or exploring the country around my grandparents’ places down south in Capel and Bouvard.”

Riley explains this led to his deep interest in postcolonialism and ecological imperialism.

The ecological and historical elements of place were always important to me. Our diverse, unique environmental and cultural ecologies have been deeply affected by invasion and colonisation; that’s why currently my broad study and writing focus is in postcolonial ecocriticism.

Riley is excited to immerse himself in the writing and poetry scene at Oxford University, where he’ll undertake a Master of World Literatures in English.

"You’ll catch me sitting in on enviro-science seminars, poetry workshops, political debates at the Union, and indie gigs in every pub. I’d love to continue to write as a career in the future, perhaps as an academic and editor, and to share my interdisciplinary interests in the scientific and cultural aspects of ecology with students and readers through my writing and teaching.”

Riley says he’s excited about the opportunity to meet with the wider Rhodes community of diverse young people from across the world.

“I’m beyond keen to meet them in person and be surrounded by the ideas and enjoyment that kind of environment will generate. Living as part of the Worcester College community at Oxford also really excites me, as does being enrolled in probably the best English Literature programme in the world (after UWA’s, of course!)”.

He encourages aspiring Rhodes Scholars to be authentic throughout the application process.

The selection panels are looking for people who enjoy and are committed to the things they’re passionate about, who are genuine and authentic in their interactions, and who aren’t afraid to take risks and be creative. Feel free to use some flair in your application, to make jokes and showcase your personality, if that’s the best way to communicate your passions and answer the questions. Also, get started early, I wish I hadn’t left my final edits for the last few hours before the deadline!

This leads us to Riley’s secret superpower…

“My superpower (and maybe, simultaneously, my kryptonite) is finishing and submitting every assignment less than a minute before the deadline. I’m a world-class procrastinator.”

He still seems to achieve a lot – congrats Riley!”

Before we wrapped up, Riley wanted to leave two reading recommendations for fellow reading enthusiasts.

So many of the most important, powerful and exciting books being published in this country are by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers; Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen and Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki (also a UWA graduate) should be required reading.

Applications for the Rhodes Scholarship open on Saturday 1 July. You can read more about eligibility and selection criteria on the Rhodes Trust website.

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