I signed up to the Harry Potter Society’s mailing list at Freshers’ Fair when I first arrived in Oxford, but for a long time never made it to anything. After five terms I finally turned up to a welcome event, and never looked back!
In terms of my best experience with the Society, it’s very tempting to say the annual trip to Leavesden Studios, but I’m going to have to say our Game Show Night, when we held our own Harry-Potter-themed versions of Pointless, The Chase and The Weakest Link—the impression of Anne Robinson performed by one of our members was uncanny. Being sorted (into Hufflepuff) is also something that will stay with me.
We have such a wide variety of events that there’s something for everyone, and you can turn up to as much or as little as you like: we have crafts events, quizzes, film screenings, debates, and of course our always-hilarious fan-fiction nights. We’re also a really relaxed, welcoming group of people: even though I turned up for the first time well into the year, I quickly fitted in.
OWSC is an ever-growing Oxford based Facebook community, which aims to tackle the stereotypes underlying mental health and encourage an open discussion of all things uncomfortable and to talk about the difficulties that anyone can incur in whilst at Oxford. Every self-identifying woman is very welcome into the group; the atmosphere is really friendly, and you can post anything anonymously if you don’t want to do so publically.
I had a really tough Easter vacation last year, and was surfing a Cambridge based self-care group, and came up with the idea of creating an Oxford-based one. It grew very quickly, and we now have over 1,200 members, lots of anonymous post takers, an Instagram account, a Spotify playlist that anyone can contribute to.
I think there have been so many positive consequences to OWSC it would be hard to narrow them down: the fact that my friends felt able to speak out about mental health and that members improved in their own, the anonymous pidge present scheme that saw women in Oxford sending each other encouraging cards and gifts– it is the little things however that affected me the most: a girl I didn’t know approached me at my college ball and thanked me for the group, hugging me – I was really moved by this. The biggest pride is seeing a conversation which is more and more frank about the difficulties that inevitably come whilst at university, and that to me is more important than anything else.
I would say simply get involved if you think you could benefit from the group – over time, if you feel you want to, you could become an anon post taker, and help out with anonymous schemes and the IG account. However, please be aware that given the vast intake of freshers and the fact that we need to be sure everyone sticks to the confidentiality policies, we will be taking in new members to the group as of the end of first term!
I founded Oxford First-Generation Students in Summer 2015. Every year more and more first-generation students arrive at Oxford, and I really wanted to bring together first-gen students across the university and to start a conversation about what it's like being first-gen.
Getting to meet other first-gen students across the university has been incredible! Listening to them share their stories has been a real privilege, and I’m really proud that we’re starting to challenge the idea of what the ‘typical Oxford student’ looks like.
If you’re the first in your family to go to uni then Oxford First-Generation Students is for you. Whether you’re passionate about broadening access to Oxford to students from all backgrounds, being there for first-gen students who might need support, or if you just want to make friends across the colleges then you should definitely get involved!