Before I arrived at Keble last year, I knew I wanted to take part in Keble At Large. Like many people, I’d been frantically googling Keble after receiving my offer, trying to source as much information as I could. I came across the linked Keble At Large Facebook and Instagram pages with testimonies written by current Keble students from state comprehensive school-educated, ethnic minority or otherwise underrepresented backgrounds. They all had fascinating stories and, through seeing how inclusive and friendly an environment Keble was, I became even more excited to arrive and get involved in Outreach.
I immediately joined the KAL Committee in Michaelmas (first term) of my first year and started doing tours, Q&As and workshops for students from state comprehensive schools visiting Keble. This was nerve-wracking at first, particularly as I’d just arrived and was worried I wouldn’t be able to do Keble justice! However, after a while I got into the swing of things and it was really enjoyable. Often, Oxford colleges look similar to boarding schools, just because of architectural fashion during the time in which they were built. This can be pretty confusing for state school pupils – I’ve been asked before whether we have a bedtime/curfew or uniform, or whether girls are allowed to wear earrings! I have to make clear that we can in fact go to bed whenever we like and wear whatever we like. Our relationships with tutors and college staff are quite different to those between school students and teachers as we’re all adults. Sometimes tutors hold drinks receptions with their students or we all have dinners together, which is really nice as you develop personal relationships with the people teaching you.
I was delighted this year to be elected as Academic Affairs and Access Officer for my college JCR (undergraduate student body), meaning I’m also President of Keble At Large. I’ve been so excited to work with a new committee and our college’s Access and Outreach Officer Work, who is employed by college to improve representation of state school-educated and otherwise underrepresented students in Keble’s admissions through working with our linked access region, the West Midlands (more specifically Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull and Warwickshire).
We’re still posting on Facebook and Instagram, which is great because I get to take photos of people and chat about what they want to include in their captions, although students have pretty much free rein when it comes to their testimonies. As a result, I’m always finding out cool things about where and what my friends have come from. Many students overcome various different obstacles to get to Oxford and one of the best parts of being here is meeting so many interesting and inspiring people. We’ve also started doing Keble At Large Student Instagram Takeovers this year, during which students vlog a day in their life and show that Oxford students aren’t chained to the library! This has been a lot of fun to coordinate and participate in.
I can’t wait to work on expanding Keble At Large further, including hopefully setting up a student-run YouTube channel next term. Working with state school groups has been one of the highlights of being at Oxford so far and has let me meet and get to know so many great people in the process. I’m excited to see what the rest of this academic year brings and hope that some of KAL’s projects help to inspire prospective applicants to consider giving Oxford a go!