I’ve been at Oxford for almost a year now and some days it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m genuinely still shocked I even got a place here and even more shocked that I’ve (almost) survived it! Before I got to Oxford I was pretty hesitant to start: I was sure I wouldn’t be able to cope with the workload and would probably have to drop out. I thought there wouldn’t be anyone I could relate to in terms of experience; as a brown Muslim from a northern state school I don’t *quite* fit the Oxford stereotype.
I’d been warned and warned that I would have to put up with a lot of discrimination and elitism, so honestly, I had pretty low expectations for what my social life would be like. At first it did almost meet them; I didn’t really feel a part of my college, which focused pretty heavily on clubbing and drinking games in Freshers’ Week that I couldn’t and didn’t want to partake in. I was worried that this would continue for the rest of my time in Oxford and I wouldn’t make any friends.
Once the craziness of Fresher’s had settled down, however, I soon made friends in college. In fact, I’m really close with my course mates in college and the atmosphere is super friendly, so you’re never made to feel alone or different. Colleges also have in-college welfare events, formals and even societies, so there’s plenty of opportunity to meet people in college even if you don’t put yourself out there in Freshers’ Week. Another thing colleges do is give you ‘college parents’, so you’ll have at least two Second Years who you already know and can contact if needs be when you first get to Ox!
For me, societies were a big part of getting settled in. Cultural societies like the OUIsoc (Oxford University Islamic society) and the Pakistan Society are super helpful in connecting you with people from the same background, so you don’t feel as alone in colleges where you may be one of few BAME students. The OUIsoc in particular offered an alternative Freshers’ Week which I attended and was where I met a lot of my best friends now. Now the Isoc is like my family when I’m in Oxford and I’m even on the committee! There are also loads of societies where you can try something new or just mingle with people who love the same things as you. There’s everything from an MMA society to a Harry Potter society so, there’s definitely something to fit everyone.
As cheesy as it sounds it’s definitely true that there’s no one type of Oxford student. I never thought I could enjoy my time at Oxford as much as I have. The Oxford stereotypes shouldn’t put anyone off applying in the slightest - it really is for everyone!