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Profile: Jade Powell

Jade PowellJade is LGBTQ+ Rep for Univ’s JCR. In this profile she discusses what surprised her about the Physics course, her favourite parts of being LGBTQ+ rep and why you should apply to Oxford. 

Why did you apply to Univ?
Although I never visited Univ before applying, I knew a little about it from the UNIQ Summer School I went on in 2018 — I remember one of the helpers went to Univ and she always said how friendly everyone was. I never expected to get into Oxford when I applied (I was very fortunate in having some very supportive sixth form teachers who pushed me to go for it), so to be honest I didn’t put much thought into picking a college. I feel very lucky that I made the choice I did though, I absolutely love Univ and I can’t imagine what Oxford life would be like at a different college.

Do you think you’ve changed since you started at Univ? If so, how?
100%. I feel like a completely different person since coming to Univ — I have changed for the better in so many ways. When I decided I wanted to pursue a career in STEM as a woman from a working-class single parent family, I was always underconfident about my abilities and would never speak up for myself. In the two years I’ve been at Univ I feel like I’ve learnt so much about myself as a person, and the amount of confidence and independence I’ve gained has led me to an amazing group of friends, and the ability to get involved with societies and opportunities that I would have otherwise been too shy and afraid to do. Knowing that I have been given the opportunity to study at Oxford in of itself has pushed me to motivate myself to do things I never thought I could. Although the Oxford environment can be quite overwhelming, especially for people who have grown up in deprived areas like myself, it’s so motivating knowing that if I work hard that I could be lucky enough to live somewhere as beautiful as this when I’m older.

How has coronavirus affected your work and life?
I feel like coronavirus has quite heavily impacted my work — as it has for many. I don’t deal well with uncertainty; and it feels like that’s all this last year has been. The stress of not knowing how things will be in a year or even a month is very difficult to manage, and I have found myself at points becoming obsessed with all the statistics and articles about it. I still find myself being very pessimistic about it all – I find it difficult to even imagine what life will be like once everything goes back to normal.

I was allowed to come back to Univ this term which I am very thankful for, as online terms are very difficult for me due to family issues at home and not having access to an environment in which I can really focus on work. Univ really feels like my home now so it has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders to be back and know I can properly focus on my work. My tutors have been amazing at adjusting to online tutorials and I find online lectures so helpful too because I can pause and rewatch things to properly understand them.

Have you found anything about the Physics course surprising or particularly interesting?
I knew Physics at Oxford would be intense, but as a fresher I was quite overwhelmed with just how much content we cover. This year I have had chance to get into a good working structure and now things feel much more manageable, and I have had space to really get into the subjects we study. Last term I did a short option on the history of Physics and I loved it, I was really shocked at just how interesting and in depth the course was. It was so interesting to learn about the background behind the content we learn; it humanises the maths and makes it feel so much more important, as it’s so easy to just see Physics as numbers on a page sometimes. It was nice to have a change of pace, as I’ve always had a love for writing and being able to do essays on Physics is the best crossover I could’ve asked for!

Jade PowellWhy did you run for LGBTQ+ Rep? What are you most proud of doing as part of the role and what do you want to achieve?
I ran for LGBTQ+ Rep because I absolutely loved the events as a fresher and I think the LGBTQ+ community at Oxford is such a lovely and friendly group, which I never expected before coming. I have made many friends through LGBTQ+ events, and it made me feel so much more comfortable in the city and in general. I would say I’m most proud of helping to organise the LGBTQ+ Formal Dinner that happened this time last year, which involved managing the booking system and organising guests and speakers. It was an amazing event and it was lovely how much effort Univ put in to decorate the hall! It’s one of my favourite memories from my first year. I think LGBTQ+ Rep is such an important role — especially in Michaelmas when new freshers arrive — being able to construct a friendly and supportive environment so that members of the LGBTQ+ community feel welcome in a new place is so rewarding. We have regulars to our events and it always feels like a little family!

Have you experienced any challenges that you’re happy to share here? If so, how did you cope?
I have encountered a few challenges while being at university, but I’m so glad I’ve been able to overcome and manage them as it has made me so much of a stronger and resilient person. I really struggled in first year with depression and stress because I thought I wasn’t as clever as everyone else and didn’t deserve to be here. I’m so glad that I’m doing better now in that aspect, and I want other people to know that if you were accepted to Oxford, you were accepted for a reason. As someone who was always a perfectionist and would get really down if I didn’t get full marks in school, when you come to Oxford you have to adjust your expectations and not be fixated on the idea of getting full marks but more on the idea of learning in of itself. Now I have let myself free of the stress of having to do perfectly in everything, it has given me so much more room to breathe and actually enjoy my subject. I have also experienced family issues and health issues, but the welfare team at Univ is great and is always so supportive and helpful. It’s really nice to know I have a family at Univ, everyone knows each other and will always be there to help if you need it.

I was also worried about financial issues when coming to Oxford due to my background but being a Crankstart and Lloyds scholar has helped so much — I am hugely grateful to have been given these opportunities as it has meant financial issues have had almost no additional weight on my shoulders.

Jade PowellDo you have anything you would like to say to prospective applicants?
I would encourage people to apply no matter their background, family history, sexuality, race, etc. Oxford has been life-changing for me, and to think that two years ago I didn’t even think I would be able to go to university blows my mind. You never know how things will work out, so it’s always worth a shot. Oxford is not perfect and you might struggle at times, but it develops you so much as a person and gives you such a different outlook on life that it’s definitely worth it.

Describe Univ in three words
A second family.

Published: 22 February 2021

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