An Interview With An Oxford Graduate: Part One
When applying to university, launching yourself into the world of work or finding inspiration, we could all do with a little bit of encouragement and advice. To help you through, here is an interview that I conducted recently with an Oxford graduate, sharing experiences, tips and tricks about all of the above. Enjoy!
Why did you apply to Oxford?
Applying to Oxbridge was in the back of my mind from when I first visited Cambridge University at the age of 16. However, I never thought of it as a realistic possibility until I received my AS results, and found out they were good enough to apply to the top universities. I applied to Oxford because I loved the city, because tutors and students were so friendly on the open day, because I wanted to be challenged academically, and (I have to admit) for the prestige.
What makes university special in general?
University is most people’s first time living away from home. It’s special because you have the opportunity to develop as a person away from the constraints of home and family life. It’s special because you’re surrounded by a community of likeminded people – and by some people with totally opposing views – who support you and challenge you to grow.
What was the best lesson that Oxford/university taught you (especially for the working world)?
The best lesson being an Oxford graduate taught me was if you put your mind to something, you can achieve great things. It’s important to have self-belief (though I’m still working on that one!).
Do you have any regrets/is there something you wish you had done at university?
I don’t have any academic regrets – I think I made the most of all the opportunities I was presented with in that respect. My biggest regret from my time at university overall would probably be not spending more time socialising in my second year. I had no exams, so could probably have afforded to work a little less hard than I did!
What advice would you give to potential Oxbridge candidates?
The advice I would give to potential Oxbridge candidates is to take each step as it comes, and not to worry too much. The latter is much easier said than done; however, I genuinely believe I would have enjoyed myself just as much at almost any other university. As an Oxford Graduate, it isn’t the be-all and end-all!
Which people do you believe are the most influential?
The most influential people in the world aren’t always those who deserve influence, unfortunately! But the people who have been most influential for me personally are my parents, who have always supported and encouraged me to be the best I can; my university friends, who have helped to shape my ambitions; and a few tutors who pointed me in the right direction along the way.
If you could dine with three people in history who would they be?
There are so many historical figures I’d love to dine with, but ultimately I would choose the French philosopher Voltaire (for the witty dinner-time conversations – he was great with his put-downs!), Napoléon’s wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, and the feminist Simone de Beauvoir (her The Second Sex fascinates me).
What book inspired you in life?
I could cite a vast number of books which have inspired me in one way or another. A recent example which shifted my worldview is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’. It’s rousing, optimistic and empowering (and so short that I won’t summarise it – you can read it yourself!).
As a high achiever at Oxford I am 100% sure that the experiences and knowledge of this Oxford graduate have offered some very useful and important life lessons for us all. Don’t miss the second part of this interview where we will cover the specifics of success and failure and what hindsight can offer us.