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Young Univ Stories: Catherine Yuen

Catherine Yuen after graduation

Graduation in the sunshine

When I applied to study law at Oxford, I did not put much thought into college choices, as I did not have a strong affinity to a particular college. I eventually learnt that I would be interviewed at Univ.  If there was anything my interview preparation taught me, it was that search keywords for Univ had to be very specific to avoid confusing Google with the Oxford University more generally or the University College in London. At the time, I was scarcely aware of how lucky I was to be considered for a place by Oxford’s friendliest college.

Catherine Yuen with Baroness Hale

Meeting Baroness Hale at the Oxford Union

A decade later – I am so grateful to Univ for having experienced its idiosyncrasies. Draped in white bedsheets secured with safety pins, I danced to cheesy music in the college bar with my counterparts, all just as ridiculously dressed, honouring Univ tradition at the annual toga-themed bop. Cramped in a small college room for the Eldon Society initiations, I joined law freshers to perform silly rituals to demonstrate allegiance to Univ’s law society. My first Univ all-nighter was, not because of an essay crisis, but was spent in Univ’s Hall watching Obama’s re-election poll count broadcast, accompanied by the college master’s live election insight.

In addition to the high academic standards and welcoming social community, there were many perks of studying at Univ. As the oldest college, Univ students are the first to matriculate, freeing up the rest of matriculation day for celebrations. Because Univ is right next to the Examination Schools, you could catch some much-needed sleep before and after the stressful examinations. Most importantly, you can always rely on Ahmed’s food truck, parked outside of Univ every night, offering a variety of cheeky indulgences to get you through emergency essay crises.

Proud W3 Spoon Recipients at the Summer Eights

Oxford and Univ expanded my horizons through a wealth of extracurricular possibilities. As a member of Univ’s W3 rowing team, I trained in, unquestionably, the best-looking boathouse on the river. While our team’s efforts were rewarded at the Summer Eights with Spoons, an honourable award for a crew overtaken, or bumped, each day at the races, we always had a good laugh. Encouraged by a Univite running for Oxford Union President, I served on the Union’s secretary’s committee and had the honour to meet inspiring people from all walks of life, including education activist Malala Yousafzai, first woman Justice of the Supreme Court Baroness Hale, and K-pop sensation Super Junior.

Since graduation, I have pursued a career in law. I am currently an associate at Linklaters LLP and advise clients on complex corporate transactions and reorganisations. My Oxford education at Univ has encouraged me to think laterally and to remain intellectually curious. This has enabled me to thrive in the demanding and high-pressured work environment. Admittedly, my current job is not as exciting as rowing on the Cherwell on a winter morning, or organising a celebrity speaker event for the Oxford Union, but my work continues to challenge me every day and I am happy to have found a job I truly enjoy.

Catherine Yuen and friends after Trashing

Happy faces after the Law Mods Trashing

Univ has taught me not to be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone, as you never know where that will take you. Through its focus on academic excellence and support of extracurricular endeavours, Univ has prepared me well for my future. I am proud to be a Univite and to be part of a community of prominent figures and alumni. I am glad that my initial difficulties in googling Univ did not put me off the college as, looking back, there is not one bit about my college experience that I would change.

Catherine Yuen (2012, Law) is an Associate at Linklaters, London. Prior to Univ she attended St Paul’s Girls’ School in London.

Published: 10 June 2021

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