The first graduate of the California State University System to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship almost didn't graduate from high school - much less attend college.
Stephanie Bryson, who graduated last year from Cal State Long Beach and is now in graduate school at Georgetown University, had a difficult time in high school in San Diego, and at one time considered becoming a professional surfer.
Last week, she became the first CSU student in the history of the 23-campus system to be named a Rhodes Scholar.
"Sitting with students from Princeton, Yale, Stanford, MIT, it was pretty intimidating," she said. "I think they may have been a little bit surprised that I was there representing a state school."
Bryson, who lived in Brussells last year, is headed to Oxford University, and is debating entering a masters or doctorate degree program on her way to becoming, ideally, she said, a presidential policy advisor.
But there was a time when Bryson did not want to attend college, especially after a less-than-stellar high school experience.
Bryson, who began lifeguarding the summer before her senior year of high school, wanted to become a professional surfer. But realized that wasn’t what she wanted for a career.
She began studying German to reconnect with the language her mother spoke to her as a child, and met a student in a geography class whose choice of a major catapulted Bryson’s own journey.
Bryson began studying international relations and rose to become president of Long Beach’s Model United Nations.
"It opened my eyes to where international relations can take you," Bryson said.
She served in Brussells as the executive assistant to the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
"I came into school as an undeclared undergraduate and very quickly found my way," she said. "I think there’s a lot of people in that situation that don’t know what they want to do, and I think you should be open to all opportunities.
"This can serve to remind the legislature and the public of the value of California higher education."