Portsmouth High School scholar from Chekhov's home town offered place at Oxford to read Russian | Portsmouth High School

Portsmouth High School scholar from Chekhov’s home town offered place at Oxford to read Russian

Portsmouth High School Sixth Former and HSBC scholar, Zarina Robson, has been offered a place at Oxford to read Russian.  With the requirement of 3 As in her subjects, Russian, History and English Literature, Zarina spoke about her Russian roots and her love of learning which began at an early age.

Zarina was born in the Far East and moved to Russia as a baby where she spent the first six years of her life before moving to the UK.

‘Before I moved to England I didn’t speak a word of English but the word ‘Oxford’ is known across the world and I grew up with my mum saying “one day you will be going to Oxford.”  It is a dream come true that I have been offered a place’ said Zarina, 18.

‘I came to Portsmouth High School as an HSBC Sixth Form scholar and until then didn’t really consider that Oxbridge would be a possibility although I have always wanted to go to university.  Getting the scholarship spurred me on and I was encouraged by the support of the staff and the girls who have all rooted for me.  This has been a really big deal for me; all the preparations and interview techniques and learning to keep nerves down have not been taken for granted.  Mrs Cresswell [Head of Sixth Form] is so familiar with the Oxbridge system that her help has been invaluable.  She prepared me for far more, and beyond, the interview itself.’

After some years in the North of England, Zarina moved to Portsmouth with her mother when she was in Year 8 and went to Charter Academy.

‘My Principal told me about the HSBC scholarship and I was so lucky to be offered it for Portsmouth High School.  I was always a very keen student  and have tried to make the most of every opportunity.




‘I don’t remember much of my very early life in Russia but I have echoes in my head of songs and nursery rhymes that my mum used to sing me.  I never had any schooling in Russia because school there doesn’t start until seven years old but I always loved to read.

‘Russian writing is very proscriptive; everyone is taught to write in exactly the same style – almost like calligraphy.  Because I learned to read and write in England my written Russian is very different to the norm.

‘I had a very different childhood in terms of moving around and this has strengthened me and made me more determined.  I see people passing on opportunities but I am always so grateful for everything I am offered as I have experienced life without having chances.

‘I have a vague long term plan – I am interested in law and want to travel so I think I would like to do a law conversion after my degree and possibly join the RAF as a Legal Officer.  I appreciate the work that the forces do and understand the discipline required to serve in them.

‘If I get my three As and do get into Oxford  I am so excited about the literature aspect.  I adore English literature and want to be able to access Russian literature and reconnect with my roots.  Chekhov came from the same town as me, Taganrog, and I want to be able to explore his writing in greater depth.

‘When I visited Oxford I was so enthused by how the students, and other applicants, were so excited by their subjects and had such a thirst for knowledge.  ‘The first thing I did when I received my letter was ring my Grandma in Russia.  ‘I knew you could do it,’ she said.