Savannah Stanislaus is a second-year studying German at Lady Margaret Hall, and is one of two Race and Ethnic-Minority officers for Oxford's LGBT+ Society, as well as a Modern Languages Outreach Ambassador; helping to inspire students from under-represented backgrounds apply to Oxbridge.
In Savannah's Student Spotlight for Black History Month, she shares her tips for embracing the opportunities of Oxford, and having the confidence to find people to connect with, even if you don't consider yourself to be a stereotypical Oxford student.
The journey so far
My name is Savannah and I am a second-year from London studying German at Lady Margaret Hall. I am also one of the two Race and Ethnic-minority officers (RAEM) for the University of Oxford LGBT+ Society.
My Oxford experience, for the most part, has aligned with my initial expectations of the University. I expected an academically rigorous environment, with top quality teaching and strange but interesting traditions. I did find that my ability to manage the workload and the access to academic support from the Modern and Medieval Languages department has exceeded my expectations, with lots of individual support available. I must note that the social expectations I had for the University and the inter-college socialising have not been met, but I can assume that this is a result of the pandemic and I look forward to exploring all the different clubs, societies and events this year.
Tips for new students starting at Oxford
My main tips for students starting at Oxford would include:
1. To familiarise yourself with the course structure and required texts/materials. Additionally, email your tutors and find out what is being studied when, so you know what to prioritise in your preparation work.
2. Try to embrace the traditions and lifestyle that comes with studying in a place as renowned as Oxford, as it can be great fun and often a once in a lifetime opportunity.
3. Be confident that you will find a group of people that you fit in with and can share life experiences with, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a stereotypical Oxford student. This is coming from a Black, neurodivergent, gay, state-school educated and estranged student.
4. If you can plan your work for the week on the weekend before, that way you can leave enough time for socialising, societies and sports etc. Additionally, don’t overwork yourself, it is not the end of the world if you ask for an extension on an essay/task every once in a while - most people do!
5. Don’t forget to have fun! The work can be all-consuming at times but please remember to have fun and to relax as it’s important to take care of your mental and physical wellbeing.
Joining the LGBT+ Society
I’ve found that by being a member of the LGBT+ committee, I’ve been able to connect and work with so many other students across subjects, colleges and year groups which has been especially beneficial to making friends and forming connections not only in general, but also during the pandemic.
Furthermore, being a RAEM officer has provided me with invaluable opportunities such as being interviewed for articles, and hosting speaker events with highly influential guest speakers such as the former adviser to the Prime Minister of Grenada, the first person to successfully sue the Trinidadian government as well as the plaintiff in the high-profile LGBT Cayman Islands case etc. Additionally, being a Modern Languages Outreach Ambassador has allowed me to connect with students across the country from under-represented backgrounds in a bid to improve social mobility and inspire them to apply to Oxbridge.
Getting through the pandemic
As it has been everywhere, life in Oxford during the pandemic was challenging, especially as mine was marred with a fair amount of self-isolation. However, the collegiate system here at Oxford has been particularly successful in alleviating the sense of isolation and lack of social interaction, as the small college community at LMH as well as the grounds allowed for seeing familiar faces and exercise.
Looking to the future
After my undergraduate degree I hope to take the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL) and pursue a career as a criminal defence barrister, whilst forming close connections and gaining experience in the hopes to pioneer change within the legal system for the benefit of this country and its citizens.
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