Profile: Ruqayah Juyel
In the first of our new series of profile interviews highlighting Univ women students, academics, alumni and staff, part of activities marking 40 years since women were admitted to College, we caught up with Ruqayah Juyel, JCR Women’s Rep.
Have you always been set on studying Law, or did you take a while to decide? What helped you come to a decision?
During my A-Levels, I found myself debating whether to study Law or English Literature. A conversation with the headteacher at my sixth-form is what tipped the scales for me. Prior to this conversation, I, like many others, thought the law was a bastion of justice. My headteacher did not agree. During this conversation, I found myself reanalysing the law and its function in society. My headteacher forced me to confront questions regarding justice, the legal system, and whether my statement survived after certain characteristics of the law were highlighted. This wasn’t a grand epiphany moment. I still had to do a lot of research into the degree. However, looking back, this conversation is probably when the penny dropped that Law was what I wanted to study.
Why did you choose Oxford? Why Univ?
For me, choosing Oxford came down to the tutorial system and the philosophical component of Oxford’s Law degree: Jurisprudence. Choosing Oxford over Cambridge came down to the city. Coming from London, Oxford felt more like home than the quieter city of Cambridge. I chose Univ for its location on the High Street. Being in the centre of the city sounded like it would be a blessing, and it has been. Cowley, Jericho, and most other colleges are a short walk away; you are never too far from a Sainsbury’s. It doesn’t hurt to see the top of the Radcliffe Camera from the rooms in College!
Was there a particular area of your subject that you were interested in before you applied?
I was particularly interested in the Jurisprudence portion of the degree. Studying Sociology while applying to study law, I found myself reading into Durkheim’s theory on the function of law of criminalisation. Only today, I sent off my preferences for my Jurisprudence mini-option topics. I’ll be writing a coursework essay over the summer vacation on this topic. I’ve selected options with a sociological twist, such as “Law and its critics” which looks at Marxist and Anarchist conceptions of law.
How do you think you’ve changed since walking through Univ’s doors as a fresher?
I now know how to manage my time well. This may sound boring, but it makes my life anything but. Projects and trips excite me and I have a lot of energy to put towards them. From visiting museums and cafes to painting and learning how to embroider and play the ukulele, I like busying myself. Rather than trying to challenge impromptu and disproportionate bursts of energy and attention, I work in a more structured and productive way. The intensity of an Oxford degree asked a lot of me and I think that I rose to the challenge well, over time. After all, the more accomplished my essays are, the freer and happier I am to paint for my new project.
What else do you do apart from your subject in Oxford?
Oxford has a plethora of student hotspots and I’m fairly committed to being a typical student and unashamedly sampling as many of them as I can. Attending student plays also takes up a large part of my calendar every term. I do love paying only a few pounds and spending at least a few evenings every term watching whatever play is in the spotlight that week. I also run Univ’s Liberation magazine called Roots and their Branches have recently written for the Majilis Society’s new magazine.
I also love taking part in the JCR and attend nearly every meeting. A lot of hard work goes into making sure the JCR is more a well-oiled machine running on the proactiveness of its members and less like Lord of the Flies. Our JCR does a great job at this and it is always rewarding to take part in it all.
Has anything surprised you about Univ?
Before coming to Univ, I don’t think I ever really realised how much of an Oxford experience it is due to the collegiate system. I love the different dynamics that the system creates. You see it at Bops and in Hall and in the familiar faces in the library. You see it in the relationships students have with porters, scouts, and the works departments. You see it during Torpids and Cuppers and in the different crests embroidered into the puffer jackets that wander through Tesco’s every day. There is a certain sense of belonging, camaraderie, and jovial competition achieved via the collegiate system and I love it.
Have you faced any challenges in your time at Univ? How did you overcome them?
The workload is significant, a common challenge that I needed to overcome. Trial and error is the main way I conquered it. Most of my first-year Michaelmas and Hilary term was spent figuring out how I worked best. Steadily, I came to understand just how much reading I would need to do before I was ready to write my essay. I came to understand when I should be satisfied with a piece of work. I came to understand when – not at 3am, I realised to my shock and horror – and where – I love the Radcliffe Camera and Pret a Manger – I work well. Speaking to Law students and my college parents in the year above sped this process up a lot. I still find myself improving my approach to my workload, but I overcame the hardest part during my first year.
Why did you decide to run for JCR Women’s Rep? How has the experience been thus far?
The JCR Women’s Rep before me was brilliant. She paved the way for a lot of new initiatives, such as the Women’s Formal. I wanted to carry on these new initiatives and had many ideas of my own. I knew I had the energy and the interest, so I ran!
I’m really loving it. Working with the librarians, I’ve started a “Women’s Bookshelf”. Fellows, tutors, students, and staff that identify as women have contributed suggestions to make the bookshelf. I’m planning on arranging a new batch of suggestions to be put through to the library soon! I’ve also recently arranged with the Mooncup company so JCR women can purchase Mooncups at a discounted price. I am also part of a steering group of women from the JCR, MCR, and SCR, who are currently arranging a range of events to celebrate the 40th year of women at Univ.
Women at Univ 2019. Celebrating 40 years of achievement by women students, academics and staff, and recovering the history of women in the College from 1249 to the present day.
Published: 8 March 2019