Victoria Morris, History and Politics, Jesus College, Oxford (2014-2017)
How do you feel about your time at Oxford?
Looking back on my time at university I feel a mixture of pride and relief.
There are lots of reasons I’ll miss it. For obvious (and often repeated) reasons, I’ll miss all the wonderful and supportive people I saw every day. I’ll miss the feeling of newfound independence. I’ll miss the city itself. But the first thing I thought of when I sat down to write this was how much I’ll miss studying a subject I enjoyed full-time and what a luxury it was to be able to do that.
Oxford was extremely difficult at times, but looking back I wonder how much of that stress and difficulty was brought on by myself. By ‘brought on by myself’, I’m not saying that stress is something that you can recognise and then just switch off. What I think is true is that I put a lot of pressure on myself by trying to get the most out of my time at university. I wanted to be organised, accomplished in everything and make the experience ‘perfect’. I had high self-expectations and I felt like I had to prove something.
Obviously, self-motivation is a good thing, but a lot of what was pressuring me to do well was self-doubt. I was continually reminded how ‘lucky’ I was to be here. I don’t remember having confidence issues with public speaking or debates when I was younger; I think those are things that wormed their way into my head because I grew so scared of making mistakes.
I had been very aware of more overt sexism before uni: from implications I didn’t understand simple orders to not being allowed to carry mildly heavy objects. When an elderly male acquaintance refused to believe my sister when she told him I had gone to Oxford (“Oxford Brookes, you mean?”), I was annoyed, but not surprised. It was the expected reaction from someone who had me down as a quiet and incompetent girl in a mostly male organisation. What did creep up on me was that every time I said “I’m not sure” in tutorials, even though I was quite sure, I became more and more like the quiet, unsure, female archetype that the acquaintance had boxed me in as.
I started writing this with the aim of giving advice to my younger self and I think it boils down to this: be more confident during discussions. Make a mistake once in a while, and don’t be scared to be loud.