Student spotlight banner: Joana Baptista. Credits: University of Oxford
Student spotlight banner: Joana Domingos. Credits: University of Oxford

Student Spotlight: Enhancing your student experience through entrepreneurship

Joana Baptista is a third year BA Economics & Management student at St Hilda’s College. She has lived in Oxford for a number of years and is originally from Portugal. In this Student Spotlight, Joana talks about her experience studying at Oxford so far, including her extra-curricular entrepreneurship and sporting activities.

What are you involved in outside of your studies?

I run my own social enterprise She. which works to reverse taught prejudice by rewriting classic fairy tales with a modern twist, each highlighting a different form of discrimination. I also co-founded an organisation called UniReach (previously UniPear) last year, which endeavours to help those who may traditionally be left behind in - and left out of - the Oxford application process by pairing them with current or recently graduated Oxford students who mentor them 1-on-1 throughout the application process, totally for free.

I’m also involved in a number of other initiatives including being a youth board member for the Peter Jones FoundationFumble, and Women in Tech. This past year, I was Women’s* Officer (* this represents anyone who wholly or partly identifies as female) for St Hilda’s College JCR for which I organised our annual Feminist Festival, welcoming over 400 attendees and raising over £600 for charity."

Have you been involved in any sport-related activities?

“This year I’ll be co-captain of one of our university hockey teams, I’m also a blues ice hockey player, enjoy going to the gym, and recently I’ve been enjoying getting myself involved in a huge range of sports from touch rugby to MMA to ballet.”

What do these bring to your wider Oxford experience?

"I think student life outside of study is something you have to gradually ease yourself into. In my first year, I got involved in Ice Hockey and college sport. I have since found more time to dedicate to trying new things, getting involved in sports one at a time and mostly just to keep myself fit and active in a fun way that would also help me meet new people.

The social enterprises I run and organisations I assist in predominantly reside outside of the Oxford sphere, which meant that I had to learn to balance them and my time fairly early on. For me, whilst these opportunities mean I have a bit more time pressure for academic work, they bring me so much enrichment, purpose, and direction.

How have you adapted throughout the pandemic?

"The pandemic was a really tough time for me mentally, as I’m sure it was for others also. During the first lockdown I really struggled to find motivation to do even the most basic tasks. I spent most of my energy just motivating myself to keep going with uni work, breathing fresh air every day, and working towards a more positive mental state.

Though each subsequent lockdown has been easier for me, this whole year and a half has definitely been a case of re-evaluating and recalibrating what I thought and originally experienced my time at university to be like.

Over time I’ve tried to implement behaviours such as going for a quick outdoor walk every day, not working during the evening, maintain some regular form of exercise, and finding new hobbies like building puzzles with my mum."

What events have you managed to undertake during the pandemic?

"UniPear, the organisation I co-founded, was set up during the pandemic partly out of a desire to do something more. This also massively helped me find a purpose to my days that otherwise seemed long and repetitive.

I also joined the Youth Board for the Peter Jones Foundation during the pandemic – a role that I’ve loved finding creativity and friendships within, as well as honestly just feeling really cool every time I think about the fact I’m involved in an organisation founded by someone from Dragon’s Den which I grew up watching.

One of my personal achievement highlights of this past year has definitely also got to be Fem Fest, which I organised as part of my role as Women’s* officer (*this represents anyone who wholly or partly identifies as female) securing notable speakers such as Victoria Coren Mitchell, Golda Rosheuvel, Katherine Parkinson, Alix Fox, and Khadijah Mellah.”

What are your future aspirations?

"After finishing university, I’ll be joining McKinsey as a Business Analyst and plan to remain there for a few years, with an MBA in between. In the long run, I hope to be the CEO of a large organisation – preferably one with social impact – and really be a part of something that touches the lives of lots of everyday people. No matter what I do, I hope it makes a difference, makes the people around me and myself proud, and is beyond what I ever thought someone as insignificant as me could be capable of."

Can others get involved?

"Yes, definitely! UniReach would be so happy to have students on board to mentor (time commitment is just 1 hour a month). We’d also love for you to share our posts on social media (@UniReachUK), to your JCRs, or to your old schools to help get the word out to other potential mentors/mentees who might want to join us! 

If you would like to share your own experience of student life at Oxford, email [email protected]