Although the pandemic may have limited student life in some ways, student clubs and societies at Oxford have continued to provide opportunities to safely interact with other students in these more restrictive times.
We spoke to Jari Morganti, an Experimental Psychology student at Corpus Christi College and Alice Marks, a Master in Earth Sciences at Exeter College who share their experience as members of the Oxford University Air Squadron (OUAS), which is sponsored by the Royal Air Force. OUAS offers students the opportunity to learn how to fly aeroplanes (for free), adventure training, travelling and personal development, with no commitment to join the RAF after University
Why should I join?
Jari Morganti, a second year Experimental Psychology student at Corpus Christi College, says: "OUAS is the perfect society for anyone interested in flying, adventure or leadership. We offer a range of activities that will suit anyone. In recent years we have organised scuba diving, climbing, canoeing, gliding, and we teach members to fly year-round. Although I do want to join the RAF, there is absolutely no commitment to do so, and the majority of students don’t. My highlight has to be flying. RAF instructors give us world-class training, and it is an opportunity that you simply cannot get anywhere else. I have also really enjoyed participating in a week-long blank firing exercise. Here I worked on my leadership and fieldcraft in a way that I would never usually be able to, getting to work closely with a team in a military setting. If you enjoy new experiences and are adventurous, the OUAS is the society for you - we do everything."
Will I meet new people?
Alice Marks is a DPhil student in Earth Sciences and outlines her experience: "My time on OUAS so far has been incredible. There are so many opportunities that you can take part in, and make close friends with like-minded people along the way. Our presentation skills have also been worked on by giving presentations on a variety of topics. I would say that my highlight so far would be skiing in the Bavarian Alps for a week - not only was it free, with all equipment provided, but I was also paid for it. We had the opportunity to take part in avalanche training and were taught how to improve synchronised skiing skills, all alongside serving RAF personnel. If you have any interest in the RAF, I really encourage applying."
Are there any activities during the pandemic?
OUAS has arranged a number of activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a ten-day trial of Headspace Training, a Book Club, Film Club and an Aircraft Recognition Club. There have also been video challenges on the OUAS YouTube channel, and the regular term time training nights, which usually happen at the OUAS Oxford HQ, have taken place via Zoom.
The OUAS Ground Training Instructor has also been running regular virtual fitness training sessions for all students, as well as practice RAF fitness tests online for the newly recruited first years as it is mandatory to pass it within the first six months of being attested (the ceremony that results in students gaining their service number while they are part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve.)
OUAS Town Nights have involved a number of informative events, such as Air Power topics and talks from current RAF serving personnel from many trades (engineers, medics, admin staff, aircrew, high ranking officers, and ex-RAF personnel.) Flying theory lessons have also been made available for those interested in flying, to get ahead for flying lessons when guidance allows. The evening usually ends with a quiz that covers a plethora of subjects.
As soon as restrictions lift, OUAS have an overseas staff ride, (expected to be to Malta with up to 30 students), Adventure Training UK trips, Force Development trips, flying lessons, formal dinners and camps.
Do I get paid to be a member? Are there any costs?
Students are paid based on their attendance, ranging from £43.43-£51.53 per day (8 hours). For a Town Night, students are paid for two hours £10.85. In terms of costs, students have to pay a Mess Bill of £10.00 per month. Outside the pandemic, OUAS also have subsidised overseas trips.
How do I join?
You can find out more information and apply to join OUAS via the Royal Air Force's University Air Squadron site.