A young Auckland woman is forging a new life at two prestigious universities, fuelled by her late mother's passion for literature and learning.

Hope Sutherland, who won a place at Oxford University in England despite nursing her terminally ill mother during exams, has excelled so much she has been selected for a study exchange at Stanford University in the United States.

Last year Sutherland scored three coveted A* grades in the Cambridge International Exams while at ACG Parnell College, to gain entrance to Oxford University.

An A* grade is given for exam scores of more than 90 per cent, which Sutherland achieved in literature, graphic design and design technology.


She managed the exceptional grades even though her mother, 44-year-old Dawn Sutherland, lay dying in palliative care after a three-year battle with myeloma cancer.

Sutherland had been the main caregiver for her mother, whose love of English language and literature rubbed off on Sutherland when she and her younger brother were home-schooled by their mother.

Now Sutherland is reaping the rewards of her hard work, securing one of only two Kathleen Lavidge Bursary awards to study at Stanford for three weeks.

"The course I'll be studying is called 'An Exploration of Art Materials: The Intersection of Art and Science'. It's a chemical materials course that looks at the physical properties of art materials," Sutherland said.

"A big component of the course is a final project where we're going to produce our own artwork using some of the materials and processes we've studied. I can't wait."

Hope Sutherland has been awarded one of only two bursaries at England's Oxford University, to go on a study exchange to Stanford University in the United States.
Hope Sutherland has been awarded one of only two bursaries at England's Oxford University, to go on a study exchange to Stanford University in the United States.

Sutherland said the course, an odd combination for an English undergrad, fits with the illustration and art projects she does in her spare time, and her interest in manuscripts of old English texts.

The 20-year-old said Oxford had expanded her horizons and she was surprised at how much she has learned that is not part of her degree.

"General knowledge in the form of current events, opinions, and coming into contact with other critical viewpoints of what goes on in the world. I've never been a very politically aware person, but I've been surprised at how much I've picked up over the past months."

Sutherland said the study was flexible but she was still very busy.

"I find my day fills up mostly with working through reading lists, writing essays, the odd tutorial or class, and the million-and-one extracurriculars that you tend to just acquire somehow by being in a university full of enthusiastic and proactive people.

"Next term I'm looking forward to doing some editing for one of the student newspapers, going along to the university's amateur kickboxing club, training for a charity marathon I'm running in November, and getting involved with some access and outreach programmes."

One of her favourite things to do was study in the university's " beautiful old libraries".
While Oxford had opened doors for Sutherland both practically and intellectually, she said it had not fundamentally changed what she wanted to do with her life.

"One thing that I do want to do in future is create a scholarship fund to help more international students study in the UK, particularly those students who are combining art and science in some form of interdisciplinary study.

"I think the steep fees are often a barrier to talented students studying overseas, and it would be great to work to change that."

Sutherland said she had easily settled into Oxford where the "incredible people", including a new boyfriend, had made her feel at home.

She was looking forward to the "Sophomore College" exchange at Stanford next month because it would reunite her with best friend Katherine Yang, who had just gained entrance to the Californian university.