Profile: Memoona Ahmed
Memoona Ahmed studies Psychology at Univ. In her first year she won Univ’s Next Novelist competition, run by Amanda Brookfield, Visitor in the Creative Arts.
How did you come to choose to study Psychology?
From a young age, I was surrounded by lots of healthcare professionals who were treating my older brother for an acquired traumatic brain injury. I was fascinated with the brain and its ability to rehabilitate itself after near-fatal injury, and being involved with my brother’s care team really inspired me to learn more. When I was 16, this interest in the brain developed into an interest in psychopathology thanks to my incredible A-Level Psychology teachers. Experiencing anxiety myself made me determined to find out how to help others who are often struggling silently.
Why did you choose Univ?
My secondary school ran a trip to Oxford on the Open Day, and I remember just walking into Main Quad and getting the goosebumps. It’s incredible because I actually ended up living on Main Quad in my first year! I think I just knew it was my place. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and it felt like home.
Has anything surprised you about Oxford or your course?
I think what has surprised me most is how scientifically psychology is treated as a discipline. I was under the impression that it was rooted in less scientific methods, but I know better now! The Department of Experimental Psychology here at Oxford are world-leading in their scientific research and the breadth of research areas is dizzying. What I found unique about the course is that people have often studied vastly different combinations of A-Levels to get to psychology, and we each bring a different perspective to the subject.
What do you want to do with your degree?
Ideally, I’d love to become a clinical psychologist. Along the way, I want to research anxiety disorders and how we can deliver a better public education in mental health. The numbers of children and adolescents who meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder are staggering. Childhood is an incredibly critical period of time for development, and anxiety disorders in this tender time can do vast long-term damage. I’m determined to create more awareness of mental health in children, parents and teachers. Developing this awareness in children especially could go a long way in helping them support their peers and validate their own confusing emotions at a tricky time in their lives.
Do you have any favourite moments from your time at Univ so far?
I have lots of favourite moments! Looking back to my first term at Univ, I remember signing the College register and feeling so proud that mine and my parents’ names were now part of college history. Another favourite moment was finishing prelim exams in March 2019 — I will always look back fondly on my first (and sadly due to COVID, only) experience of being trashed! Finally, the moment it was announced that I had won Univ’s Next Novelist was all sorts of catastrophic. I will always remember it.
How did it feel to win the Univ’s Next Novelist prize?
I’m not sure I could put it into words! I still can’t quite believe it happened. I remember Amanda Brookfield smiling at me when she saw the realisation dawn on my face – that they were talking about my story and my characters. I never expected my entry to go anywhere, so it was a huge shock to the system. I am forever grateful for Amanda’s guidance and support through it all. I must also mention my secondary school teacher Ms. Jacquie Reid, who taught me English for five years and took me from a point where my writing lacked any real expression to where I am now. She always encouraged my writing, especially my poetry, and I can’t thank her enough for what she did for me.
Being a full-time student has been my priority at the moment, though I do work on the book from time to time! I can’t wait to share it with the world someday.
Why do you help on Open Days and interviews?
I love helping on Open Days and interviews because it is a real chance for me to express how much I love the college. It is a wonderful way of giving back to the community and I always hope that seeing a Pakistani Muslim girl at the oldest college in Oxford will inspire more applications from people with a similar background.
The one thing I would say to prospective applicants to Oxford in general is to follow your strengths and embrace your weaknesses. What I have learnt in my time here so far is that no-one is perfect, and that you really need to stick to your own passions rather than anyone else’s.
Describe Univ in three words.
A caring, passionate family
Published: 26 October 2020