For Briar Thompson the news that she will be studying among the elite at one of the world's most prestigious universities is still sinking in.
The 21-year-old Whangarei woman, and a University of Waikato Bachelor of Communications graduate, is one of three New Zealand postgraduates named Rhodes Scholars Elect for 2012 who will travel across the world to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom with university and college fees paid by the Rhodes Trust.
According to Universities New Zealand, responsible for administering the awards, the Rhodes Scholarship constitutes the pinnacle of achievement for university graduates wishing to pursue postgraduate study internationally.
While at Oxford, described on the university's website as "one of the leading universities in the world", Briar plans to study for a one-year Master of Science (MSc) in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies followed by a one-year MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy.
She is particularly interested in migration, security and diplomacy issues relevant to the Pacific region and currently does volunteer work with Refugee Services in Hamilton.
"I'm honoured to be selected as a Rhodes scholar from a pool of candidates of such high calibre. I've been blown away by the support and encouragement I've had from family, friends, and the University of Waikato," she said.
Despite her excitement to begin her studies at Oxford next year, for the moment the reality of her achievement is "still sinking in".
In July Briar told the Report she penned the application form for the scholarship but said it was "impossible to get in".
Briar's Waikato University academic adviser Associate Professor Shiv Ganesh said he was absolutely delighted with the Rhodes Scholarship award.
"Briar is truly one of the most outstanding students I have encountered in the 17 years that I have taught at the university level, both here and in the United States. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient than she."
But success, although she's quick to quash the word, is something Briar has experienced often.
She was deputy head prefect of Whangarei Girls' High School, and gathered in awards for first in English, art history, Maori, media studies and first equal in art design.
She was named Dux and received a Waikato University vice-chancellor's Prize for Academic Excellence Scholarship, alongside another four tertiary scholarships.
During her time in Hamilton Briar has been on the Young People's Reference Group for the Office of the Children's Commissioner and a Waikato University Maori mentor.
- Whangarei Report - Karina Cooper