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word cloud of college memories

Memories of their time at Queen’s were sent in by many of our alumnae. They were nostalgic, thoughtful and above all, honest about the highs and lows of their university experience. They reflected on their accomplishments at Oxford, on how they were nurtured and grew, on the happiness they experienced through the relationships they built – and on the lasting effect of all of this on their personal development.

  • ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Academic, Sporting, Cultural
    • Queen's became home for me - I came up in 1997 as an undergraduate and left in 2007 with a BA, a Master's, a DPhil and a JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) under my belt! I also chose to get married there in 2013.
    • What a brilliant, crazy, intense, intellectually challenging, varied, fun three years. I carry with me the confidence to try new things, and deep gratitude at having Dr Constantine and Prof. Reed as tutors. Learning alongside such a range of fellow students was the thing about college: I never knew what the next beer cellar conversation would be about but whether mundane, intellectual or personal, so many disciplines and experiences came together it was always exciting.
    • It looks good on my CV - and is a quiet source of pride!! It was an interesting insight into the rather rarified world of late 1970s Oxford academia. I was unaware until the moment I arrived at Queen’s that I was amongst the first ever female students - I chose Queen’s because my tutor at St Andrews University had gone there himself and recommended it. It was strange to experience the MCR which was effectively a gentleman's club - not a place I chose to spend much time!
    • My three years at Queen's came at the pivotal "spreading wings" age and to be able to explore, intellectually and emotionally, in such a secure and supportive environment was of great importance. Academically I was challenged, but found my interests and level.... To be able to play cricket with the College men's team in league and Cuppers matches was good for my development as a cricketer and I won my first senior England cap the year after I left Queen's. I left Queen's with an understanding that being the best me I could be would be good enough, a message which has been reiterated throughout my sporting career and beyond.
    • I did not set out to be a trailblazer. In fact, I didn't realise Queen's had only recently admitted women when I arrived as the first female undergraduate to study physics at the College in 1981. My memories are a mixture of frequently feeling overwhelmed and out of my depth along with a desire to take advantage of all the opportunities Queen's and Oxford gave me. My three years at Queen's certainly helped shape my career. Of course, having an Oxford degree opens doors, but it also taught me about the nature of learning and how, in later situations, to seek out the right learning environment to help me flourish.  My committee roles in the Ladies' Dining Society and the College Orchestra paved the way for numerous social and business roles, while performing with the Oxford Bach Choir and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society embedded a still ongoing passion for music and theatre.  And has that 'trailblazing' had an impact?  Well, my current business card describes me as 'Champion for Girls' Opportunities in Engineering'.
    • One memory which I have promised to share for the archive is not so positive. As one of the first intake of women at Queen's I felt privileged but a little bemused at all the fuss, coming from a mixed comprehensive school where studying alongside boys was entirely normal. To my disappointment, my German tutor did not share this view. On arriving for my first tutorial, soaking wet after cycling from the Florey Building in a downpour, he invited me -  through the disapproving expression on his face - to remove my dripping cagoul and join him in the sitting area of his study. He regarded me sternly and then said: 'I voted against women joining the College, you know.' I don't believe that our relationship improved from that moment on, which was a shame as I was a keen, if somewhat shy student. Unfortunately by the start of my second year he was no longer teaching having suffered a debilitating stroke in the summer vacation. Looking back it seems odd that I would simply accept his misogynistic attitude towards me with a resigned shrug but I suppose that's how it was in the late 1970s - unexpected but not surprising. I am pleased to say that by my final year the College had found a lovely and much more enlightened tutor to replace him!
    • I learned so many skills at Queen's which I have used ever since, including how to work with discipline (not that I always did that while I was there).
    • I matriculated in 1998 and at that time Queen's had a really great balance of learning, social stuff and sport. It was an amazing three years where I made lifelong best friends and learnt so much!
    • Above all, it meant happiness. I had a wonderful experience at Oxford, and was met with benign kindness from almost all dons and staff of Queen’s. I had applied to Queen’s because it had one of Oxford’s biggest language student clusters, and thus hoped I might somehow squeak in as a straggler. I didn’t realise until I got there that it had one of the best language departments in Oxford, and I benefitted hugely from inspirational and challenging tutoring from John Rutherford, Roger Pearson, and Ian Maclean. Possibly even more important was the avuncular friendship offered by John Rutherford, who invited us back to his home to meet his wife Tita and enjoy evenings of Spanish food and music. He shared his thoughts and experiences with us as equals - and simply exuded humanity and modesty. I feel especially lucky to have been taught by him.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH: Self-development, Nurturing, Challenges, Opportunities
    • Queen's enabled me to become the person that I am today. I came out in what was a hostile environment back in 1988 but the support of my contemporaries provided me with the confidence to express a fundamental part of me. And I have never looked back because of those friendships.
    • Three highly enjoyable years in which I matured a little, learned quite a lot and enjoyed being surrounded by others.
    • My time at Queen's was fantastic. I met such wonderful people (including my husband!) and had amazing opportunities that I appreciated then and even more so now. Queen's really does set you up for life.
    • A rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. Very challenging and exhilarating. Having spent three years there, this has given me great confidence in my career firstly as a doctor, then NHS Senior Manager, a self-employed consultant and now a Non-Executive Director.
    • My time at Queen's was life-changing. It led me to pursue a career in investments and savings that I would never have even known about coming, as I did, from a South Yorkshire comprehensive school. It also helped me to develop an independent mind which has occasionally got me into trouble but has definitely meant that I can work with ambiguity and find my own way through problems and opportunities. It also gave me a whole set of friends for life and a love of good food and wine!
    • At the time nothing - we were 18, just left home and this was our new world...never really thought it was anything special (wasn't everyone doing what we were doing?). With hindsight it was such a great opportunity to be introduced not only to a world of study (so great I never left it!) but also being put in situations that provided me with a confidence to tackle anything that came my way - be the first women to do something? Why not?? Start up a club or organisation because there wasn't one? Of course! Cope with a dinner talking to world experts in their fields while negotiating five sets of silverware and three glasses? No problem! But most of all meeting and learning about different people and my opinion being listened to and valued - that is the biggest thing going to Queen's gave me - instilled a belief that we all mattered and that we had something to contribute and that there were no limits.
    • My time at Queen's was an absolutely transformative and wonderful experience that meant the world to me at the time and since. I found my new independence and the opportunities that it opened really wonderful. There were tough times but lots of fun and laughter. I still see a few close friends from that time.
    • It has helped me believe in myself when things in life do not go well or as planned.
    • I had the worst of times and best of times at Queen's. I'm very grateful that I was able to study here. I learned so much and met so many special people, many of whom I'm still in touch with today.
    • Rowed Stroke in the Queen's First (Ever) Women's Eight. We insisted on outings at a civilized time, followed by tea in the JCR…. Living in college before the advent of central heating showed the meaning of hardiness…. Talking to Queen’s men taught me how to keep up a conversation about sport with no knowledge ('What did you think of that goal?') which has proved invaluable ever since.
    • My time at Queen’s was hugely developmental. I arrived as the first for five years from my state grammar school in Lancashire to go to Oxford, and with parents who had both left school at 16. In my Freshers' photo, there are only 21 women despite this being the third year of co-education. Despite, or because of, this, there was plenty of opportunity to be involved which grew my confidence. My second year 1982/83 was my key year before I went to France for my year abroad: I was Treasurer of the 1983 Ball Committee. The previous ball had made a loss, and there had been damage to College from gate crashers. College would only allow a ball if we put in professional security which made balancing the budget difficult. Nonetheless, we made a profit and had Mari Wilson, George Melly and the Pasadena Roof Orchestra amongst the acts. I was elected as academic rep of the JCR for two terms which was great fun and not particularly onerous. I was captain of the badminton club, organising both men’s and women’s teams. Getting a team out was half the battle to win matches, and so we did quite well. Normally the badminton captain was Minor Sports Rep on the Amalgamated Sports Club Committee, but it was given instead to my friend Nigel who was also the football captain. I would have been the first woman to sit on the Committee and perhaps that was a step too far at the time. Academically, I felt some of the literature I studied went over my head, but I loved French and German and continue to do so.
  • EXPERIENTIAL: Fun, Socialising, Friendship, Aesthetic Enjoyment
    • I loved my time at Queen's so much! I was the first person from my (not very well-off) family to go to university and I expected everyone to be far more clever and rich than me. I was quite shy, and expected to not fit in, but I made amazing friends from the very first evening. I think I gained a lot of confidence being at Queen's, mainly because it was a friendly and easy-going college. I had so much fun over the years taking part in various sports, singing in the choir and playing in the orchestra (and doing a bit of studying too!).
    • I really enjoyed my time at Queen's. It was nice knowing that I was studying in the same place my mother had studied 35+ years before me. I made great friends and will never forget the three years I spent at College. I miss eating dinner with my friends every day and spending my time in the beautiful building that is Queen's.
    • Amazing experiences and meeting life-long friends. It quite simply changed my life!
    • I have made friends for life with some inspirational women. Our time at Queen’s was intense but very happy. We were challenged and given opportunities to be the best that we can be in both our academic studies and beyond. At the time we were there, Queen’s felt quite unique amongst the Oxford colleges as it actively supported extra-curricular activities. I benefited from travel grants so I could travel abroad on hockey and athletics tours. I know that the arts were also a big part of College life. I think that it has given us all the belief to go on and live very full lives. We have all been equipped to balance a successful career with raising our lovely children.
    • Away from the maths, I found a great group of friends to play sport with, to make music with and to figure out who we might be in years to come.
    • It was a beautiful place where I enjoyed studying and made significant friends, most importantly Tim Morland to whom I have been married for 36 years.
    • I met most of my closest friends while at Queen's. Being an Oxbridge graduate helped build my professional credibility, and doubtless opened many doors. Although I was fairly overawed when I first came up, I soon found that the stereotypes were not true and that I could mix with "normal" people from all walks of life, many of whom were clearly very talented.
    • I met my husband at Queen´s and some of my dearest friends too.
    • Going up to read Philosophy and Modern Languages at Oxford was a childhood dream and I feel great nostalgia for my time at Queen's. Most importantly, there are the friendships (and fond memories of friendships) that have and will last a lifetime... whether made in tutorial rooms or on the river (I coxed for the Men's II Eight and one summer for the 'Hearty Eight' made up of fair-weather rowers from the rugby teams!) or on the steps of the beer cellar of a summer evening or in the magical upper reading room sharing essay crises.... Being in a minority, we early women were all encouraged to get involved in as many clubs as possible and I spent much of my time at The Cherwell offices taking part in student journalism as well as playing squash and tennis for the Queen's women's teams. When pedalling round the city, I was always struck by the beauty of the place - I'll never forget the show-stopping sight of the upper library smothered in wisteria in the springtime as seen from Queen’s Lane.... And I never ceased to be amazed by the wealth of culture and music and arts to which we were exposed as undergrads.... This place still gets to me each time I come back!!
    • I made many friends, some of whom have continued to be important parts of my life. I met my husband there. It was three years of freedom - to be grown up and also to be more childish than I had been since I hit adolescence; and between that and the study and the scholarship and the atmosphere, I learned immeasurably about my own self and my own mind. I also had more fun than I had ever had.
    • Queen’s is stunningly beautiful as a college in its classical magnificence. It has left a permanent trace on me.