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News > Old Girls > Emily Arbuthnott (Class of 2016)

Emily Arbuthnott (Class of 2016)

We were delighted to hear that Emily Arbuthnott (Class of 2016) had been awarded the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award for Scholastic Achievement.  We caught up with her to find out more.
26 May 2021
Old Girls
Emily Arbuthnott (Class of 2016)
Emily Arbuthnott (Class of 2016)

Can you tell us a little bit about your achievement?

I received  the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award for Scholastic Achievement when I completed my Economics degree at Stanford University last spring. Named after Stanford's fifth President, who presided over the university's rise to national prominence, the award is presented to the top 25 graduating students each year in the School of Humanities and Sciences. As part of the achievement, awardees are asked to recognise a secondary school teacher and Stanford faculty member who have been most influential in their scholastic career, and invite them to a luncheon award ceremony. Sadly, the luncheon couldn't go ahead last year, but I was nonetheless delighted to be able to recognise Mr Catley who was my Lower 6 Economics teacher at Habs.

What made you decide to study in the USA and why that course/college?

I started looking at American universities because of the collegiate athletics setup, which allows student athletes to combine full time sports training with being a regular student. While at Habs I was playing junior international tennis, and I wanted to be able to continue playing tennis to the highest level while getting a great university education. Stanford has a great reputation for both tennis and academics, so when I was fortunate enough to be offered a tennis scholarship it seemed the perfect choice. My degree is in Economics, but unlike UK universities where you exclusively study one subject, in the US you do not have to declare your 'major' until the end of your second year. All degrees last four years, and you also have to fulfil breadth requirements on top of your major classes, so there is time to explore many disciplines before deciding what to focus on. This worked well for me as I was considering both Chemistry and Economics after my A-levels, so I was able to try out both while also taking courses in a variety of departments, including History, Computer Science and Psychology.

What do you miss about the UK?

Apart from the obvious things like my family, friends and the chocolate (I always take a supply out with me!), I miss the history and architecture we have in the UK. We are extremely lucky to be surrounded by so many fascinating buildings and a rich culture that I have come to appreciate so much more whilst being away. I also miss the British countryside and our witty sense of humour.

What did you study for A Level at Habs?

I studied Maths, Chemistry and Economics for A-Level and did an AS in Further Maths.

What are your fondest memories of your time at Habs?

I was at Habs for 14 years and absolutely loved it. There were so many extra-curricular opportunities available that catered for everyone. I always played sports at lunchtime, but also remember cross stitch club in junior school and being involved in organising house events. I have fond memories of being at school late for music concerts or plays, and feeling rebellious sneaking off to walk the corridors at night. I also remember feeling constantly supported by the teaching staff and my classmates. Being immersed in an encouraging environment gave me the belief that everyone can be successful and make an impact. This is something that has stayed with me since I left the school.

Were there any teachers in particular who made a positive impact on you?

I was fortunate to be taught by many great teachers while at Habs. As I mentioned above, I recognised Mr Catley as part of my award for his contribution to fostering my interest in Economics. He had such great enthusiasm and brought economic theory to life through lively classroom debates and lunchtime Treasury budget parties, which really cemented my interest in the subject. I also remember having a lot of fun in Maths which I was taught by Mrs Godfrey for several years. In our GCSE class we would do special puzzle questions in yellow books on Fridays which I always enjoyed. The entire PE department also had a very positive impact on me. They were so supportive of my tennis endeavours, always asking how my tournaments went, and they even came to watch me when I played at Junior Wimbledon.

What sage advice would you pass onto our students?

Not to be afraid of failure. All the students at Habs are brilliant, but that doesn't mean you won't fail or underperform at things throughout your life. One thing I've learnt from my experiences in tennis is that failure is not only a great learning tool, but it builds character and makes you more resilient. Stanford is located in Silicon Valley, where there is a huge culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, much of which is driven by this mindset where failure is seen as something that is positive and necessary. Since being here I've realised how important failure is for creating success, so I would say don't let fear hold you back from pursuing something.

What would you tell your 16 year old self if you could go back in time?

I think I would tell myself to be more confident. This comes naturally with growing older, but you realise sometimes you just have to ask for things and people can be surprisingly accommodating. A few years ago I started an on campus bar at Stanford, and having the courage to find the right people to talk to and pitch the idea was quite daunting, but it has ended up being one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. So, whatever you want to achieve in life, just work hard, have fun and be determined. It's amazing how far you can get with self belief.

Any other memories or thoughts you’d like to share?

My first Action Week as a Lower 4 student was really exciting. I remember being so impressed by the creativity of the sixth formers and feeling really inspired to be like them one day. I also have fond memories of the school skiing trip to Vermont, making the quarter finals of lacrosse nationals and qualifying for netball regionals, and dressing up as a lobster during leavers week!


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