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Profile: Zoë Shah

Woman smiling in Oxford garden holding a bottle of wine

Zoë Shah (2022, English Literature), JCR Welfare Rep

Zoë is a second-year English Literature student from Manchester. She is female welfare rep for the JCR, working alongside Marcus O’Connor (2022, Classics) and the trained peer supporter team to make Univ as friendly and welcoming as possible for people from all backgrounds.

How have you changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time? 
I’ve definitely learned a lot by being surrounded by so many people who fully throw themselves into whatever interests them and aren’t afraid of hard work. I think this has encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone and be more ambitious and authentic. Also, I’d say my time at Univ has pushed my time management skills to their limits. Whilst I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I can get done in a crunch, I’ve come to realise that life is better when you plan ahead…

Why did you choose to study English? Has anything surprised you about the course? 
Ever since my days as a devout Harry Potter fan, I’ve been drawn to fiction and creative writing as an insight into different minds, cultures and perspectives. I wanted to study literature at a higher level as a way to learn more about subjects that interest me in terms of politics, history, music, foreign languages and more. At Oxford, I was surprised to find that the earliest module was my favourite. I hadn’t encountered any early medieval literature before starting the course, but I find it fascinating how these texts have remained relevant to our society to the extent that they continue to spark contemporary debate one thousand(ish) years after being written.

Do you have any advice for settling into life in Oxford?
My advice would be to give yourself time, and be patient if it’s taking you a while to settle in. It’s normal to need some trial and error to find a good routine, learn what’s expected of you from your tutors, find your people, and so on. If you do feel overwhelmed at points in the first few weeks, remember that you always have the option of reaching out to the welfare team without judgement. I’d also recommend taking a step back and remembering that it’s totally fine to say no to a few societies or club nights to prioritise your sleep and social battery. Each new term will come with new opportunities waiting for you.

Do you have a favourite moment at Univ so far?
It would probably be parts of Trinity term, just relaxing in the sun in Univ’s green spaces with friends. When the hustle and bustle stops, Univ is such a quiet and peaceful spot off High Street. Despite prelims, I found Trinity so much fun in terms of all the garden plays, punts, picnics and everything popping up.

What are your aims as the Welfare Rep?
My main aim is to be a proactive and empathetic representative of students’ welfare needs, and someone who I hope people will feel comfortable confiding in. So far, I’ve focused on creating fun alcohol-free events alongside providing lots of extra support at drinking events such as sober angels at every club event and BOP recovery rooms.

I’ve also prioritised increasing the accessibility of women’s products by making sure they’re in every college building, something I hope will make Univ a more welcoming and supportive environment for all. I’m trying out a new system of Society Introductions so that older students can lend a helping hand to any freshers feeling anxious about getting involved in uni-wide societies. Finally, we’re aiming to increase the use of our trained Peer Support team by collaborating with them frequently at welfare events.

Describe Univ in three words.
Unique. Unexpected. Unforgettable

Published: 16 October 2023

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