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Young Univ Stories: Catherine Laporte-Oshiro

Getting “trashed” by friends after my finals in 2014

In Autumn 2012, I won a Rhodes Scholarship to study China at Oxford. I had just completed a BA at Yale in political economy with focus on Chinese state capitalism and had spent several summers in China, and I wanted to continue my studies in order to pursue a career in US China policy. I knew Oxford had fantastic international relations and China studies programs and, being based in neither the US nor China but a country with its own unique history and position in the world, offered distinct perspectives on the US-China relationship.

Sight unseen, I applied to Univ after consulting some alumni, who told me it was a beautiful, centrally located college with a vibrant MCR community, students and scholars in diverse fields, and, more practically, housing for first-year graduate students and funding for student research. I was lucky enough to be accepted and, upon arrival, found those attractive qualities to be even more special upon closer inspection. I settled into my room in Univ graduate housing on the beautiful Merton Street and, jet lag or no, was immediately swept up in MCR freshers’ week activities, where I was instantly made to feel at home and part of a community.

With my husband Jonathan and our dog Giles. Washington, DC – 2019

I actually met my future husband that first week in Oxford at the MCR’s Iffley Gym induction – very romantic, I know. He lived in the graduate house next door to mine on Merton Street during first year, and I would, to his great annoyance, throw pebbles at his second-floor window to get him to let me in when he wasn’t answering his phone. We moved in together in fourth year to one of the Univ couples’ flats in Stavs, which is now getting a beautiful renovation but was still excellent, affordable housing for students back when and I’ll always remember as our first shared home.

The Univ grad boat in which I rowed – 2014

I have so many other strong memories of Univ. Long formal dinners with friends and quick lunches between classes in the Univ hall. Rowing sessions on the Isis at the crack of dawn, in the pouring rain, and, occasionally, in lovely weather at sensible times of day. Learning about the research of my brilliant peers at Martlets sessions at the Master’s lodgings. The glow of candles on stained glass and ringing voices of the Univ choir during evensong.  Chatting with the kind, patient porters and trying to remember all the gate codes.  Long, dark nights in winter with friends and mulled cider, and endless summer days spent outside in Trinity term. Staying in one of the lovely Univ guest rooms when I flew back from the US for my DPhil viva.

My studies at Oxford have also helped me pursue a career in China policy in the US government. As a China Trade Enforcement Analyst at the Office of the US Trade Representative, I put to use daily the Chinese language research skills that I honed in my doctoral research, work with some of the officials and experts that I interviewed as a MSc and DPhil student, draw on my experience with UK and European politics when it comes to issues like multilateral coordination on China issues, and sometimes wonder whether some unfortunate doctoral candidate will ever pore over my notes in US government archives, attempting to decipher my handwriting and shorthand.

Catherine Laporte-Oshiro (2013, MSc Contemporary Chinese Studies) is a China Trade Enforcement Analyst at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr Laporte-Oshiro is Yale graduate and a Rhodes Scholar. After her MSc at Univ, she completed a DPhil in International Relations at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, with her dissertation focusing on US economic policy toward China in the post-Cold War era. At Oxford, she rowed in Univ women’s freshers and grad boats.

Published: 16 April 2021

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