‘Oxford – is it for me?’ This is how Somerville student Boyi Li (2023, History and English) summarises the concerns of many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students when they are considering Oxford. It is this question that the student ambassadors at Somerville’s BAME Access Day answer with a resounding yes.

This week we invited Year 12 students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to Somerville for the day, hoping to show them that BAME students do have a place at Oxford, and if it’s a university that they want to aim for, they absolutely can.

The day included advice on applying to Oxbridge, a tour of Somerville, and perhaps most importantly, hearing from current Somerville students of colour about their experiences. Our student ambassadors gave presentations on their time at Oxford, delivered a Q&A session, and talked informally with visiting students about their courses, and life outside of study.

First Year students Boyi Li, Lucy Pollock and Saafia Jinadu present on life at Oxford

Amrit Rooprai delivers a presentation on her experience of Oxford

Boyi emphasised that, whilst there are a great range of cultural societies at Oxford, you don’t need to rely solely on these to create your community. In fact, building community can be as simple as coming together with friends in College to share food, celebrate festivals, and have fun: “It’s not just about student societies, it’s about you and the new era you’re entering into.”

Jamie Lee (2023, History and Economics), who is our newly elected JCR President, shared that, since starting at Oxford:

“I’ve felt more in touch with my cultural origins. For example, things like speaking my native language – I would never do that in school, but I got to do that at university. It was like getting a part of myself back.”

JCR President Jamie Lee and Boyi Li

Organised by our brilliant Access team, Hannah Pack and Eren Slate, the day was a great success, with many of the visiting students saying how glad they were to have come. The Access team aim to build on the day when they next run it by facilitating attendance of students from the college’s more distant link regions. As Eren puts it, “Oxford can often come across as a bit of a closed, exclusive bubble and, we think, Somerville does a great job overturning that when people come here.”

Talking about what she would want days like this to achieve, Jamie said, “I would hope that more people from ethnic minority backgrounds would apply to Oxford. It’s great to have more diversity -that’s always something that’s going to benefit the university, and the college – by enriching your community.”

Visiting Year 12 Students in conversation

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