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Profile: Sam Williamson

Sam on a punt

Sam Williamson (2020, Engineering)

Sam Williamson is in his second year studying Engineering at Univ and is JCR President for 2021-22. In his profile, he discusses coming from a Northern state school to Oxford, finding your people (and delicious cookies) at university and why he ran for JCR President. 

Why did you apply for Engineering at Univ?
One of the biggest reasons I applied to Univ was the choir. I was determined to carry on singing with other talented musicians at university, but equally, I didn’t want a level of commitment that would stop me from pursuing any other new interests. At the end of my time at the UNIQ Summer School, I visited Univ to chat with Giles (our choir conductor) about studying and singing here, and I was immediately convinced that this was the college for me.

Since my early teens, I’ve been a huge fan of theme parks – to this day, designing roller coasters is my dream job. In addition, I enjoyed studying maths and physics at high school but generally preferred the more applied aspects of these subjects. Engineering, therefore, seemed like an ideal compromise of pursuing both what I loved and what I was good at.

How have you changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
Since joining Univ, my greater independence has given me the chance to pursue new opportunities. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I would become JCR President, I’d probably have asked you what a JCR even was! I also feel leading the JCR Committee has helped me be more decisive and truly appreciate what is needed to manage a team well.In the realm of academics, I’ve significantly improved my resilience since arriving in Oxford; even at A-Level, the hardest schoolwork I attempted never required as much thought and patience as the content in my degree. Lastly, much to the dismay of my bank account, I’ve developed a mild addiction to Ben’s Cookies – they’re just so good.

Has anything about Oxford surprised you?
As a Northern state-schooled student, I expected that my background would majorly influence who my friends were at university. Quite to the contrary, I’ve personally found that both geography and previous education were not to be a barrier to potential friendships and easily overcome by common interests in music and terrible memes.

That said, I think the biggest surprise of my time at Oxford was opening the door to my first year room for the first time. Living in the Tower in Radcliffe Quad was a fantastic experience; few students have windows twice their height in their room!

What do you hope to achieve as JCR President?
As JCR President this year, one of my main goals is to ensure a successful return to “normality” as we emerge from the pandemic. We are very excited to restart quintessentially Univ in-person events including Bops and JCR meetings. Additionally, we’re planning on experimenting with some new ideas to improve our provision, starting with new additions to the Welcome Week calendar. One major challenge of this process is that I and most of my committee are second-year students who never experienced studying at Oxford before social distancing measures were introduced. Luckily, we have the experiences of students and staff who had been at Univ pre-pandemic to assist us!

Have you faced any challenges in your life that you are happy to share here?
Like many academically focused students at average state schools, I struggled with making friends in high school and was frankly the opposite of popular! In these times, I found fulfilment by pursuing my passions outside of school, which undoubtedly contributed to my love of music and content creation today. Equally, I think some reassurance can be taken from my experiences. Nowadays, I feel like I’ve finally “found my people” at Univ, where my peers legitimately appreciate my quirks and interests just as I appreciate theirs.

Do you have any favourite moments from your time at Univ?
My favourite moments at Univ so far were in the weeks following my Prelims exams. As an undergraduate, time spent in Oxford without any academic work is undoubtedly rare, let alone a whole three weeks of it! Some of the highlights included sunbathing on the Radcliffe Quad lawns, racing around Oxford completing challenges on “The Mole” (a game show meticulously adapted and run by a fellow Univite) and celebrating the end of the choir year with several bottles of prosecco in University Parks.

Describe Univ in three words.
The best college.

Published: 20 September 2021

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