Would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Lucy and I am second year Undergraduate studying English Language and Literature at Lincoln. I grew up on the outskirts of West London, attending a comprehensive state school which had limited resources but an abundance of support. I owe my place at Oxford entirely to the time, patience and commitment my teachers devoted to me. Being raised in a single-parent household has always made me particularly attentive to financial drawbacks, but my school funded my place on a competitive Summer School and also paid for the opportunity to sit mock interviews prior to my UCAS Application. Their investment and belief in me meant that I was able to break my school’s unsuccessful Oxbridge track record, eventually becoming the first student to be offered a place in 9 years.
Alongside the consistent support I received from my school, I am very much indebted to my mum for helping me get here. She is nothing but strong, beautiful, hard-working, and, most importantly, kind. Growing up I have watched her work multiple jobs at one time, whilst also gaining a degree as she continued to raise my brother and me. She is determination at its epitome. She fostered my love of literature, always reminding me that ‘if you do a job that you love, you will never do a day’s work’. I sincerely believe that being exposed to the harsh realities of her struggles fueled me with the motivation and work ethic to apply to Oxford.
Who or what shaped your time at Lincoln?
It is difficult to summarize in just 250 words who has shaped my time at Lincoln thus far. Of course, it is natural to start with my tutors (Professor Peter McCullough, Dr Timothy Michael and Dr Harriet Soper) who successfully put me through an academic bootcamp every time I return to Lincoln for term. I have never been pushed so hard in my life, but they have taught me how to develop as a writer, without ever compromising or eradicating my individual style. In particular, Professor McCullough has been a voice for me in many Governing Body meetings, always willing to support and encourage any positive institutional changes I am trying to make. I should also give a shout out to each and every member of my English cohort at Lincoln - I am genuinely inspired by each and every one of them and feel very privileged to be sharing my time here with them.
I have been particularly inspired by Katie Osmon (our Schools Liaison Officer) and all of the hard work she has put into making Lincoln (and Oxford generally) a more accessible and welcoming place for state school students. I have had the privilege of working alongside many incredible women at Lincoln so far - Nupur Patel (MCR President) and her incredible implementation of the Multi Faith Prayer & Quiet Room and Dr Lydia Matthews (Senior Tutor) who supported us in this project. Nupur also kindly introduced me to Shazeea and Maayan (members of the MCR) who have worked on inclusivity and diversity at Lincoln and have majorly supported me in my projects. I have also loved getting to know the domestic staff at Lincoln, from the Porters, to the scouts, to the kitchen staff - they are the people I see every day and the ones that make Lincoln the friendly and homely place it is.
What does your current work involve?
My time at Lincoln so far has mainly been constituted by my role as JCR CRED (Cultural, Religious, Ethnic Diversity) Representative. My job involves putting on events which celebrate different cultures and ethnicities, particularly those which are underrepresented at Oxford. It also involves educating the undergraduate body on these different groups in society to promote awareness and acceptance, so as to reduce any ignorant discrimination. I knew when I signed up for the role it would be testing, and, to be honest, it has been exactly that.
During my time as CRED Rep I have put on a World Food Week to diversify the food provided in Hall, I assisted in the proposal and implementation of the Multi Faith Prayer & Quiet Room driven by Nupur and I have also curated an exhibition called ‘Facial Recognition’ made up of 20 Lincoln students and staff to provide a novel platform for discussions about mixed ethnic identities and the dynamics of representation.
I cannot put into words how much time and energy went into making these projects possible and I am pleased to say they have all been successful. However, being CRED Rep has taught me the unfortunate but inevitably lesson that change is slow. To make institutional change in a place which is as prestigious and traditional as Oxford takes many meetings, proposal drafts and emails. There were moments where I felt my stamina was not enough, that I wasn’t good enough for the role or that I would always be fighting a hopeless battle. Luckily my endurance prevailed, but this is massively owing to the strong network I have around me who were always ready to provide me with support the moment I needed it.
How do you think you have changed since arriving at Lincoln?
Since being at Lincoln I have changed in two very important ways: 1) I now have a lot more fun. I know that may sound stupid, but I think I spent a disproportionate amount of my teenage years often worrying or being reluctant towards spontaneity. The short, but jam-packed terms have taught me the importance of enjoying the moment and doing things whilst I am alive, happy, well and fortunate enough to do them. 2) I am no longer a perfectionist. I’m sure many people at Oxford have experienced being a perfectionist at some point, it’s a by-product of aiming for the top university, the top grades and the most competitive opportunities. Surprisingly, actually being at Oxford has taught me the value in mistakes, the importance of development over perfection and the frustrating but beautiful thing to be found in not knowing all of the answers.
What does the 40th anniversary of women studying at Lincoln mean to you?
I’m incredibly lucky in the sense that, since I have been alive, women have always been allowed to attend university. I guess the downfall of this privilege, is that, naturally, I do not appreciate that this was not always the case. I am so happy the college is recognizing this potent anniversary, it is not only a reminder of how lucky we all are to be here, but also an invaluable opportunity to celebrate all the work that has been done since. It serves as a reminder that even though Oxford still has a way to go, change is possible, and we know this because change has been made.
What advice would you give to future women at Lincoln?
I would encourage the future women of Lincoln to get involved in issues that matter to them. For me, I am particularly focused on improving accessibility and diversifying Oxford, so I have tried to spend my time so far fulfilling this interest. For most, you are only here for 3/4 years – it seems like a long time, but it really isn’t, so put yourself out there and make sure to get involved in projects beyond the academic demands of your degree (no matter how tempting it is to get wrapped up in the Lincoln/Oxford bubble, it is important to remember that there is an entire real world out there).
I previously mentioned support I received from MCR member Maayan, she once said that when you are trying to pave the way, when you are trying to claim space, make sure you leave the lights on for those who are yet to follow so it is a little easier for them - I cannot thank her enough for leaving the lights on for me. I hope the future women of Lincoln will leave the lights on too.