Defining Oxford

Rachel Qiu Kexin - Research and Website Officer, Team Singapore

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Oxford has a not entirely comforting reputation for crushing workloads. But in truth, a day in my life as a Geography student looks very different throughout the term. It is true that on my most hectic days, I could be going to a two-hour lecture, at a building ten minutes away from my accommodation, in the morning, faltering in a tutorial in the afternoon, attending a few society meetings thereafter, and spending the evening writing an essay to the sound of the Atomic Blonde soundtrack, knowing I’m headed for an essay crisis. But truthfully, that happens very rarely, perhaps just once or twice a term, although I must announce a caveat that this could just be specific to my course. Nonetheless, more often than not, my days are characterised by a lot of rejuvenating, deeply refreshing freedom to decide my day. I can spend time on some of my hobbies or side projects; it’s not an endless academic bustle! It sounds commonsensical, but it’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to be a superhuman to get into Oxford or your preferred university. You will not be expected to work around the clock.

The streets of Oxford

The streets of Oxford

That said, one thing I think tends to be less talked about for Oxford is experiencing imposter syndrome or feeling like you don’t belong. Admittedly, there’s much baggage attached to what the Oxford experience should look like or what Oxford people are like, and you can feel pressured to live up to those impressions. In Oxford, you can be vulnerable to those feelings, doubly so if you’ve come from an underrepresented or underprivileged background. Having said that, you’re not any less deserving of your place, even if you feel like you don’t fit the perceived mould. Success looks like many things and your own definition is no less valuable or impressive. On a possibly more comforting note, many people in Oxford often feel the same way-- it’s something I’ve noticed among my friends-- and it’s hardly an isolated phenomenon. In a way, it’s part and parcel of Oxford. As challenging as such feelings may be, there are also plenty of opportunities to carve out your own niche, and the city now is getting more diverse by the day. There’s a place for your hopes and goals here, and Oxford would be much poorer off without what you can contribute to it.

One of the college libraries

One of the college libraries

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