Class of Spectra: Qi Pan

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. Continue reading “Class of Spectra: Qi Pan”

Class of Spectra: Keertana Ganesan

Keertana Ganesan, Magdalen College, Oxford, Experimental Psychology (2014-2017)

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’m Keertana and I have just graduated from Oxford with a BA in Experimental Psychology. Before starting my degree, I was timid, anxious and extremely self-deprecating. I downplayed my achievements and constantly criticised the way I looked.

Now, I’m starting to achieve peace with myself. I’m starting to appreciate my quirks and what makes me unique. I am starting to celebrate myself.  Getting to this point has been difficult, but it has been possible because of the strong, female friends and role models I have in my life, who are unapologetically themselves.

I still have such a long way to go but I am excited for the road ahead. If I could write a letter to my teenage self, this is what I would say:

Hey Keertana,

You’re probably in some corner anxiously completing your assignments while fulfilling your social commitments. Please just take a minute to listen to me! You’re so hard on yourself sometimes – just breathe.

You’re quick to fault yourself and pick on your flaws (and perhaps you still are). The notepad you have with all those ugly words you call yourself? Throw that away and write beautiful things about yourself instead. You’re only 16.

You are going to make mistakes and that’s part of the process. There is no use thinking of how things could have gone better. Maybe have a little fun instead of trying to rehearse every single conversation in your head.

Also – yes you are different! But that’s what is great about you. Stop trying so hard to mask your differences to try to appear ‘normal’. It’s really exhausting and living in your true self can be somewhat liberating. It may not seem like it now – but one day someone will appreciate your unique abilities.

You’re beautiful too. The pale, thin models you look up to are beautiful but that doesn’t mean you aren’t. One day, you will find a way to see yourself in a different light.   It takes time and lots of self-love. It’s a journey to get to that point but I promise you it will make you a whole different woman; a woman, who is confident with big dreams and goals.

It doesn’t matter if everyone or no one believes in you: I want you to try and start with yourself.

xoxo

Class of Spectra: Victoria Morris

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.

Class of Spectra: Anne Lim

Anne Lim, Law, St Anne’s College, Oxford (2014-17)

WHAT CHARACTERISED YOUR TIME IN OXFORD?

My time in Oxford was weird and wonderful, but more often than not it was everything in between – challenging, exhausting, and sometimes discouraging. There were many late nights, essay crisis-induced complaints, and the constant reminder that there was always more to do. Things did not start out easy, go smoothly, or end simply. However, choosing to take on the difficulties I faced during my degree (self-induced or not) has been the best thing I have ever done for myself.

I will be the first to say that I was not a star pupil in Oxford. In first year, my personal tutor asked me if I ever thought about being a judge. I was quick to say ‘no’ while gesturing at my latest essay plan. She was one of the first people I have met who made me stop and ask myself ‘why’. To her, there was no reason why I should let pre-conceived notions of my ability as an individual, and as a woman in the legal industry, convince me to place dreams out of my own reach. There was no reason I could not work to achieve something if I wanted it. There was no reason to let anyone tell me ‘no’.

During my three years at Oxford, I have crossed paths with many people like her – people who remind you of your strengths when you refuse to see them and encourage you when you feel like you fall short. In this place, I have heard the phrase ‘you can’t do it’ uttered constantly, but I soon realised the only person who has ever said this to me was myself. No one here will give you a free pass and no one is here to make things easy for you, but through the challenges you face, that loud ‘I can’t’ you tell yourself will be softened by the assurances of those around you that ‘you can’.

I may not have graduated with the ambition of becoming a judge, but I have left with a grateful heart for those who have tested my resolve and challenged me to be better, all the while standing beside me in support. I will not promise you that things will always be easy or fun, but if you choose Oxford you choose a place that will give you the challenges, experiences and support to tell yourself that in spite of what you face, ‘you can, and you will’.