Qi Pan, Brasenose College, Oxford, Biochemistry (2013-17)
What is your advice to those still at Oxford?
Oxford was the place where I rebuilt my self-confidence. Being mistaken for a tourist in your home for the next four years was an interesting start to my university experience. However, I refused to let this define me. I was lucky to have a wide-ranging group of friends, who accepted me for who I was, gave me courage and saw my potential where I couldn’t.
It’s not a secret that your degree can sometimes feel like unrelenting waves crashing down on you, with problem sheet after essay after lab report, week after week. What pushed me through my degree was not only my passion for the subject, but also the faith that my tutors had in me, and the support network of friends who were all going through the same struggle.
Many of you will face imposter’s syndrome throughout your time at Oxford. Just remember that your tutors chose you because they could see your potential and enthusiasm, and you deserve to be there. Keep your head up and embrace your background and heritage. Do not let yourself be pigeonholed into a stereotype. When the Oxford bubble gets too overwhelming, go to Port Meadow and get some perspective. Your prelims or finals marks will not define who you are in the future, but your experiences at Oxford will, so have fun.
Oxford is not only about academia. Branch out and join societies to find your people. When I told my friends from home I had started coxing for the college boat club they were surprised, as I had always been a shy girl at school. However, being a cox gave me a voice and made me more assertive, thanks to the honest feedback from the rowers. Find your own way of building your self-confidence, whether that be through theatre or quidditch.
There is no one definitive Oxford experience (as the Daily Mail often portrays it), so go ahead and curate your own. Perhaps the greatest aspect of my Oxford experience was day-to-day college life. Candlelit formals and spontaneous late night conversations on staircases on topics ranging from Cicero to designer babies to quantum field theory. My friends at Oxford broadened my horizons and stimulated me to think outside of the confines of my subject, and I am forever grateful to Oxford for bringing us together.
My number one piece of advice is: even when you have long hours in the lab or essay crises, remember to look up at the dreaming spires and breathe.