Profile: Ruth Obude
Ruth is in her final year studying PPE at Univ. She was previously Vice President of Careers and Development for the Oxford Finance Society and has done internships at Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Monarch Alternative Capital.
Why did you apply to Univ?
When deciding what college I wanted to apply to it was really tough, given that there are so many colleges and all of an equal rank. I decided to apply to Univ because when I bought up the topic of college choice to a long-time friend of mine, she excitedly recounted her experience of completing the UNIQ programme at Univ several years ago. To hear her enthusiastically talk in detail about the lovely people she had met, the long-time friends she had made and overall what a great time she had, pushed me to apply to Univ.
Do you think you’ve changed since you started at Univ?
I’ve definitely changed and grown as a person since starting university almost three years ago. I’m certainly more self-assured now than I was in first year and a large part of this new-found confidence stems from the tutorials that I’ve had, particularly in politics. When you have a tutor deconstructing and challenging your arguments, you definitely need to a degree of confidence in order to defend your points compellingly and to articulate your thoughts well. Another significant way in which I’ve changed since starting at Univ, as ironic as it sounds, is that I’ve become more carefree. As I’ve matured I’ve come to realise that some things just aren’t worth stressing over (not academic work of course), that spontaneous plans often create the best memories and that opportunities come and opportunities go.
How has coronavirus affected your work and life?
Since the start of the pandemic last March, I’ve been completing university from home and have yet to return back to Oxford. Completing academic work whilst in Oxford is challenging enough, so working from home has been a completely different ball game. Given that I don’t leave my house very often, finding balance between work and leisure hasn’t always been easy. Some days I sit and obsess over the coronavirus death and infection rates, wondering if this is ever going to end, other days I lie in bed and watch nothing but unboxings on YouTube or David Attenborough documentaries and some days I work on my tutorial assignments for 12 hours straight. So, in order to add some normality back into my life, I’ve had to make a real effort to add structure to my days by making a plan for each day.
Have you found anything about the PPE course surprising or particularly interesting?
Going into it, I chose PPE because I knew I couldn’t fully commit to studying a narrow range of topics, without sampling what was on offer first. So whilst I was expecting to study a wide range of topics, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the breadth of topics available and the ability to specialise far exceeded my expectations. Due to the fact that there are so many papers on offer on very specific issues, I’ve been able to choose papers which genuinely interest me such as the Advanced Paper in Theories of Justice and has made completing my degree feel all the more rewarding.
How do you manage working on your career aspirations alongside your degree?
For me, when it comes to balancing my career aspirations alongside my degree, the best way in which I’ve been able to do so is by being intentional. Given that time available to spend on non-academic activities can sometimes be scant, I try to use my time as effectively as possible. This translates to, only applying to a few firms that I’d actually like to work for and putting in the best application I possibly can, given the time constraints, as opposed to sending off a carbon copy mediocre application to as many firms as possible. Along with being intentional I try and be as upfront as possible. Because I don’t study finance, when it comes to internships I make sure to be very transparent about the level of my knowledge to recruiters, interviewers and the team that I’m working with such that they can set their expectations. By doing this, it saves me a lot of stress as I don’t feel the pressure of having to learn in-depth information that I’ve claimed to know, so this allows me to more appropriately balance my time between preparing for an internship and my academic work. Whilst the internships that I’ve completed run during the vacations, I have had the opportunity to be a committee member of the Oxford Finance Society (OFS) where we host a number of events during term time. In order to balance my commitments to OFS with my academic work, I’ve focused on being up front about my schedule and what duties I can and can’t commit to, as well as being intentional with the work that I take on.
Have you experienced any challenges that you’re happy to share here?
Initially, I went through a terrible bout of imposter syndrome and homesickness which caused me to be on edge for most of my first term, so I spent a lot of time isolating myself from other students and this ultimately left me feeling a little out of place. For lack of a better phrase, going from being “a big fish in a small pond, to a small fish in a big pond” in terms of academic achievement, left me questioning my abilities, which then negatively influenced the quality of the work I was able to produce, and I would then use this as confirmation that I didn’t belong at Oxford. This negatively reinforcing cycle drove me to my lowest point, but the good thing is, when you’re at rock bottom, the only way is up! Reaching out to the friends I’d made as well as my Politics tutor and Aimee Rhead (Student Disability and Welfare Advisor), helped tremendously with getting be back on track and feeling more like myself again. It was really easy to bury my head in the sand and ignore the problems that I had, but when I finally got to grips with everything, I realised things where nowhere near as bad as I had imagined them to be – it’s crazy how we can blow things out of proportion in our heads. My main takeaways from the situation are that things are almost always not as bad as they seem, asking for help won’t kill you – you won’t die from embarrassment because there are people who genuinely want to help and find solace in knowing that feelings of imposter syndrome and homesickness, though unpleasant, are pretty common when you enter new environments, and you will overcome them.
Do you have anything you would like to say to prospective applicants?
A crucial piece of advice which I would give to prospective applicants is to be confident in your abilities and to give yourself the grace which you extend to others. Now this isn’t necessarily ground-breaking advice – but I do think it’s worth honing in on. During the application process and prior to applying, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and self-doubt due to the uncertainty of whether you will receive an offer. Negative self-talk is one of the main ways in which these feelings can manifest and it can be incredibly harmful to your mental health! So, if you ever find yourself at any point of the application process or prior to applying, speaking negatively about yourself and your abilities — stop, take a moment to consider if this is something you would say to someone else and when the answer is (hopefully) no, this should help you recognise that you’re being unduly unfair towards yourself. Identifying and challenging patterns of negative-self talk will enable you to be more self-assured and in a better position to apply to Oxford.
Describe Univ in three words
Vibrant. Inviting. Safe.
Published: 8 March 2021