This summer, in common with most BA candidates studying English literature at Oxford university, I graduated with a 2:1. No number can sum up the amazing experience of being a full-time undergraduate in my late fifties, scaling the generational divide like a college ball gatecrasher. An unusual situation intensified by a sense of déjà vu. Having read philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford in the seventies, I graduated feeling I had not made the grade. This sense of being an imposter among geniuses is common at Oxford, I’ve discovered. After a career in journalism and child-rearing, I was attempting to explain Sylvia Plath’s agonised poetry to my bored GCSE-candidate son when I realised — I should be studying literature……..
After finishing my A-Levels in Singapore, I completed two years of military service and spent a few months as a private tutor and orchestra musician before coming to HMC to study Egyptology and Assyriology. My course is tiny—there are just two undergraduates across the entire university in my year—which translates to unrivalled flexibility in course options, and real care and concern from tutors. I found little division between undergraduates, graduates, and staff, not least because of frequent Egyptology tea parties! This is quite unusual, and created a close-knit community right from the start. HMC has been a great place to live and work. College have supported my participation in study trips and projects outside of Oxford, and the library is a wonderful resource—I haven’t had to spend any money at all on books! Despite our small size, there are lots to see and do—I’ve attended masterclasses by internationally renowned musicians, browsed our very own art show, and handled beautiful Egyptian artefacts, all within college walls. Prospectuses often claim that everyone in Oxford is perfectly normal, but I must disagree! Most people have a quirk or two, but that’s what makes studying here so interesting. There are so many stories to listen to, especially in HMC, where everyone has spent time away from formal education. Coming to Oxford can be daunting, but the diversity and openness of HMC reassuringly shows there really isn’t an ‘Oxford type’ one has to fit into to find meaning and enjoyment here.
Before I arrived at HMC I was a full-time International Swimmer for Great Britain and formerly for Swaziland. I completed my A-levels at 18 and I decided to take two years away form the studies in order to focus strictly on my training in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Trials. I subsequently read for a degree in Human Sciences which I completed in 2015. The course itself was more that I could have ever imagined, offering a challenging and yet alternative approach to the study of human life, behaviour and the context within which it is shaped. This involved a fantastically broad curriculum spanning from medical genetics to social policy. My experience of studying Human Sciences at Harris Manchester was very positive. I felt that my Director of Studies and other college staff were readily available to assist in any difficulties, whether academic or pastoral. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a fantastically diverse and interesting student body with varied widely in terms age, lived experiences and academic backgrounds. I was also pleased to find an extensive profile of extracurricular activities. Key personal highlights include my involvement in the Oxford University Blues Swimming Team and establishing a HMC African-Carribbean Society. My experience at HMC has undoubtedly shaped my life and career aspirations. I have recently completed a graduate law-conversion degree, where I have developed a particular interest in areas of law closely allied to research I completed as part of my dissertation on the neurobiology on criminal behaviour. Much of this experience will certainly have a significant impact as a pursue a career in legal practice.