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Profile: Jess Steadman

Jess Steadman (2020, English)

Jess came to Univ from (mostly sunny) Essex and is in her second year studying English at Univ. She is also Editor-in-Chief at The Oxford Blue. If you want to find her, she is probably chopping about on the Isis River.

Why did you apply for English?
To be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to study at uni for a very long time. I kept flitting between subjects: Law, Classics, English, Classics and English, back to Law again. I finally settled on English because I just couldn’t imagine leaving literature behind. I grew up in a house full of books and I have always loved to read – though, thankfully, my tastes have matured from the likes of Twilight. Eventually, my subject choice seemed obvious because I would have 3 years dedicated to pursuing one of my favourite activities ever – and I would get a degree out of it. Plus, it gave me an excuse to nag my mother for more theatre tickets!

Jess rowing for UnivHow do you think you changed since you walked through Univ’s doors for the first time?
I’ve grown up a lot – but I think that happens to everyone when you go to university because you are suddenly made to be independent. I’ve learnt to trust in myself more, to not go running to parents or teachers for help the minute something gets tough. I can actually hand in an essay now without asking someone to proofread it to make sure I don’t sound like an idiot (well, most of the time). I can also row now, which is something little me, who lived nowhere near a rowable river, never never thought would happen.

Jess with friends in library atop the statueHave you found anything about your course/Oxford/Univ surprising?
I applied to Univ because I wanted to study Romantic poetry and I wanted to do that in the college where Percy Shelley himself was kicked out (sorry, I meant studied). However, now I am currently specialising in medieval literature. Before coming to Oxford, I hadn’t read any book written before the late 1500s, and most of my favourite texts came from the last century. I only knew about Beowulf from a Marillion song my mum used to play me in the car. You couldn’t have told me that I would now spend my whole academic life studying Old English. But that’s one of the coolest things about Oxford, you genuinely do find interests that you just would not have even vaguely considered doing before walking through those plodge doors.

Jess with the karate teamWhat do you do outside of your studies?
Way too much! Yes, I do, and I love doing, lots of the classic (some would say stereotypical) Oxford activities; I row, I cox, I do student journalism. I am also captain of the Karate Team, and I have a Blue – which is very good as it means I am no longer stressed about needing a First or a spouse. When I’m not juggling my many many extracurricular activities (or actually doing my degree!) you will almost certainly find me at the pub.

Jess with friends at formalDo you have any comforting words or words of wisdom for interview candidates?
I know this is hideously cringy but it’s the best advice I can give. When it comes to interviews, there really is no right or wrong answer, which is a good job because if there was, I absolutely got the wrong one. At face value, my interview experience sounds like a recipe for disaster: I told one of my tutors that one of favourite books was the Song of Achilles because it was “smut, but good smut” before telling the other “you’re just wrong” when he didn’t how I read Moby Dick. But that’s just the thing, the tutors aren’t looking for folks that fit a formula, they are just looking for students they want to teach, people that are going to be interesting and different (after all they’re stuck with us for the next three years). So just relax. Also, have fun because – if you let it be – it’s genuinely such a good experience.

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Published: 13 December 2021

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