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Profile: Enzo Cunanan

Man sitting on a bench

Enzo Cunanan (2021, History)

Enzo is in his second year studying History at Univ. He captained Univ’s University Challenge team for Series 29. Last year, Enzo was Welfare Rep for the Oxford Taylor Swift Society and Social Media Rep for the Oxford University History Society.

Why did you choose to apply to Univ for History?
Truthfully, I made an open application to Oxford. I didn’t actually think I’d get in, but since it was my dream school, I decided to see if I could – there’s no harm in trying, after all! I’d only visited Oxford once before I applied, as part of a day trip, so my family and I didn’t actually get to see any colleges. As a result, I wasn’t really aware of the differences between them.

From the day I moved into Univ, though, I realised just how lucky I was to be able to go to this college; I’m incredibly fortunate to go to such a warm and nurturing environment. As for my course, I knew I wanted to do History in university since I was 15, although I’ve been fascinated by it since I was five and read a children’s book on Henry VIII. I’ve also been gripped for most of my life by the Tudors, so Oxford was always my dream university to study early modern British history. Where else could I have access to such a wealth of incredible resources and teaching on the subject?

Family at VersaillesHow do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
I’ve definitely matured in several ways. I went to a day school back in Florida, so staying at Univ was my first time having to live on my own. Not only do I have to manage my schedule and chores independently, but I also have to plan out my week from an academic standpoint: when I’ll read for my tutorial essays, when I’ll write them, when I can take a break. I did find this more challenging due to my ADHD and autism. I was initially overwhelmed by the workload and freedom of it all, but I’ve definitely gotten the hang of it. I’ve also become better at handling high-stress environments; weekly tutorial essays and their accompanying reading lists will do that to you! But above all, I feel I’ve really grown as a historian, in large part due to the excellent History faculty at Univ. I’ve become better at formulating arguments from a mass of varying and often disagreeing sources, critically examining evidence, and above all, looking out for nuance. In an age of increasing polarisation, where complexity is often flattened in favour of soundbites, it’s crucial to highlight diversity and nuance.

Friends at black tie partyWhat’s your favourite part of Univ?
It’s hard to narrow it down, but I really love two things about Univ. First, its libraries. I’m incredibly thankful the Univ libraries are open 24/7, and with a wealth of books, it’s an incredibly cosy place to study. I tend to study and write in the Old Library when I’ve had enough of being cooped up in my room. Above all, though, my favourite part of Univ is its people. Everyone here has been so kind and so welcoming! As a gay, autistic Filipino student from Florida, I’m so lucky to study and live with such a brilliant and warm-hearted group of peers who understand the strength of diversity. The History tutors here have also been amazing, and with their firm, constructive feedback and passion for the material, adjusting in first year was so much easier.

Has anything surprised you about Oxford/Univ/your course?
I never realised how good Pret sandwiches are, along with the chicken katsu curry rice at Kokoro; I actually had to stop eating at the latter this year because I was eating there too often! I also don’t think that I realised how tight-knit the undergraduate body is at Univ. The size of my year is only slightly bigger than my high school graduating class, and I went to a school with small classes. It was definitely a welcome surprise, though, since I do feel I know nearly everyone in my year, which just wouldn’t be possible at many other universities. The main thing that’s surprised me about History is just how able I am to handle the workload of doing tutorial essays weekly. I was so overwhelmed with my first one ever at first, but I’ve not only really grown as a writer, but I’m usually able to read for and write one in five days now, which is pretty cool!

Friends at black tie partyDo you have any advice for prospective students?
Apply here. Try it. Oxford has a reputation as an elitist, exclusive institution, and while that is partly true, it’s become so much more inclusive in the last few decades. There really is room for everyone here. If you’re passionate about a subject, apply, even if you don’t think you’ll get in. No one, least of all myself, thought I’d get into Oxford, and I was actually planning on going to Australia, my birth country, for university before I got accepted. As my mom always says, “You’ll never know until you try.” Also, if you’re neurodivergent like me, I highly urge disclosing it or any other condition to the Disability Advisory Service; accomodations are available and the staff is very happy to help.

What do you do outside your studies?
In my free time, I love engaging with the Tudor history fandom on Tumblr and listening to pop music, especially Taylor Swift (#speaknowisherbestalbum). I was actually Welfare Rep for the Oxford Taylor Swift Society last year. I highly encourage everyone to join; the events are amazing! She’s just an incredible lyricist and in my opinion, the biggest musician of our generation. I was also the Social Media Rep for the Oxford University History Society, and I got to arrange for talks by historians from across the world. I was even on University Challenge last year, representing Univ, which was just insane. The biggest thing I’ve been working on, though, is a novel. I wrote it last summer, and I’m currently revising it with an eye to publication. It’s called “King, By The Grace of God: A Story of Henry VIII”. As the title suggests, it’s a novel about Henry VIII’s reign from the perspectives of the infamous king and his six wives, exploring how Henry went from a golden Renaissance king to a blood-soaked tyrant. At 665 pages, 207,000 words, and 76 sources used, it’s a mammoth undertaking for a debut novel, and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s supported me and gave feedback; it means the world, and I couldn’t have done it without you all!

Describe Univ in three words.
Challenging, welcoming, JCR

Published: 10 July 2023

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