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Queen's Access Podcast Episode 8: Access and Outreach

Listen to Episode 8: Access and Outreach on YouTube.

Below is a transcript of the episode.

Kyla: Hello and welcome to the Queen's Access Podcast. It's so lovely to have you here and I hope you find this a useful resource in learning more about life at Oxford, but more specifically about life at The Queen's College. My guests this week are Julia Duddy, a third year historian and the previous access and outreach rep for Queen's, and Jack Wilson, a fourth year medic. We'll have a chat about the access and outreach work that goes on in college and what it's like to be a student ambassador! My apologies for any poor audio, these interviews have all been conducted over Zoom and the internet connection isn't always completely reliable. For a transcript of this episode, please visit the Queen's website. I hope you enjoy!

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Kyla: Hi guys, thank you so much for being here, I really appreciate it! To get us started, could you each tell me a little bit about your Queen's journey, so how you ended up at college? Julia, do you want to kick us off?

Julia: Hi, I'm Julia and I'm a third year studying history at Queen's. I'm from Newcastle in the North East of England and I originally fell in love with Queen's when I saw it on the open day and I applied here, and luckily got in! I really love it here.

Kyla: Fantastic! Jack, what about you?

Jack: Hi everyone, I'm Jack and I'm a fourth year doing medicine. I came from the North West and from a state school. I actually stayed in Queen's on Open Day Plus, which I think I'm going to talk a little bit about later. I just I really liked it and everyone way really friendly there. On the open day, I also quite liked Trinity, so I ended up flipping a coin to choose between them. It chose queens and so I applied directly to Queen's and thankfully got an offer, and here we are!

Kyla: Aww fantastic, and I'm assuming you're happy with your choice in the end and that the coin flip worked out well?

Jack: The coin flip worked out incredibly well.

K: Okay, so let's get into some of the access and outreach stuff, because we've got quite a lot to get through. So, first of all, I'll start with Julia. So we've all acted as student ambassadors, but what does this actually involve?

Julia: So, basically student ambassadors are there to help people who visit the college. We give tours for schools and groups, both throughout the year and on residential things, and on open days. Student ambassadors also give Q and A's and help sessions, and we also are TAP ambassadors, which I think we're going to talk about a little bit later. We also provide support during the interview period for students who have come to interview at Queen's. We're here to answer any questions and help you through what is generally quite a stressful but hopefully exciting time! So yeah, we're just here to kind of represent the college to the world and to show everyone that Queen's is a really great place!

Kyla: Yeah fantastic, I think that's a very good summary of the role. So, Julia mentioned about being TAP ambassadors. All three of us are ambassadors for The Access platform, Jack, do you want to explain to the listeners a little bit about what that means?

Jack: So The Access Platform is an online resource where you can chat to student ambassadors, so people like us. You can just ask them any questions you have really, like about applications or what life is like once you get to Queen's and about Oxford in general. There's also the capacity to arrange to ring people up and have a chat with them one-to-one, which can be a bit easier than typing out loads of questions. You can also view frequently asked questions, so other people have asked questions that we think might be applicable to a lot of people. So you can see answers written by lots of different ambassadors on what their take on the question is. So things like 'what's the food like?' and 'can you do sport?', things like that.

Kyla: Perfect! So the Access Platform is all available on the Queen's website, so if you go to the tab that's called 'Meet our Students', we are all available there and you can chat to us any time- we're very responsive! So student ambassadors and TAP are probably the ways in which most people will encounter student ambassadors generally through Queen's, but Queen's also have a link region. So Julia, do you want to explain what that means?

Julia: So target or link regions are areas which each college has that they target their access and outreach towards. So, Queen's has historic links with the target area of Lancashire and Cumbria, so we'll invite students from this area to residential visits. Sometimes either student ambassadors or the outreach officer will come and visit schools in the area to encourage people to apply. There's no obligation to apply to the college that has links with your area- it's just assigned based on historic links or even randomly and it's all just to encourage people to break down myths about Oxford and the college system, so everyone gets a set access and outreach presence in their area.

Kyla: It's also worth mentioning that we have Lewisham and Sutton as our London link areas. But yeah, I didn't know about link areas before I came to Oxford, but I do remember someone coming in from Magdalene College, Cambridge to talk to my school about Oxbridge as a whole. So yes, you don't have to apply to the college that has a link region which is the region in which you live. So Jack, you mentioned before about Open Day Plus, what was that and what was your experience like?

Jack: So it's for year 12s who are thinking about applying to university in the next cycle and I did this as a year 12, because I live in the link region for Queen's (I live in Cumbria). You basically just stay in Queen's for a few days and you sort stay in student bedrooms, you sort of live like a Queen's student. This is around the time of the university open day, so it fits in with that. But you get some extra stuff, so workshops relating to applications to Oxbridge in general and mock tutorials with some of the Queen's who volunteer. So you're around college for a few days, you eat your meals there and you can explore the city. So it's just a way of getting a bit more experience of the city, rather than just coming down for open day and not having maybe enough time to to explore, which is nice.

Kyla: Did you find that experience to be helpful when you were going through the application process?

Jack: Yeah, I thought it was really good actually, because it's quite a long way for me to come down to Oxford, so it was nice to have just a couple of days where it didn't feel like it was too rushed. It was it was really useful in terms of the application process and the tutorials were really helpful when it came to interview time.

Kyla: Fantastic. So as I mentioned in the introduction, I came after Julia as access and outreach rep for Queen's, so Julia was our out-going rep. She started the Humans of Queen's project, so, Julia, can you tell us a little more about that?

Julia: Yes, so Humans of Queen's is a project that I set up last year as part of the wider Humans of Oxford project. It's a Facebook page with profiles of current students, which basically describe their journey to Queen's and their experiences here. It aims to break down stereotypes and show you the range of people that come to Queen's to break down the myth that we're all kind of privately educated, very rich kids. Actually we're not, we're a range of very normal people and it's to encourage people that really Oxford students aren't so different from the rest of the world! I think it's a really great initiative to show people that Oxford is so achievable and that Oxford students are just like everyone else and it's not like in the movies, where they're all massively brainy people. It's a really great project and you should check it out!

Kyla: Yeah you definitely should! I wrote a profile, Julia wrote a profile... it's a lot of really good content.

Julia: My profile's the first one there!

Kyla: Yeah Julia was the original creator for Humans of Queen's!

Julia: I wrote my own profile- I was like 'well, let's start this project going.'

Kyla: I love it! So, we also run a North West Science Residential, so Jack, can you tell us a little bit more about what that is?

Jack: So I didn't come on this as a student, but I've volunteered on this showing people around. So it's for year 12, and like Julia was saying, it's about making Oxford seem achievable. So it's for students who are on track to achieve the grades for the offers, but typically from more underrepresented groups. It's sort of similar to Open Day Plus in that you spend a few days doing mock tutorials, living and eating in Queen's and you get to visit museums and things around the city and just see what Oxford is really like. It's a nice chance to live like a student and chat to current students as well. Again there are some similar sessions they have, where you have Q&As with students and things like that. It just shows that everyone is fairly normal and I think it just helps to sort of see that firsthand.

Kyla: Yeah, definitely. So we've mentioned the North West quite a lot, so it's worth noting that the Queen's College is part of the North West Consortium, which encompasses Queen's and I think three other colleges. Last year, we had a North West drinks and this year we've set up a Facebook group for people to discuss their interests and hopefully meet up outside of Oxford. That's a really nice way of connecting people from what can sometimes seem like an underrepresented group within college and it's a nice way to meet people from other colleges who are similar to you. So, moving away from specifically access within college, Julia, you're involved quite heavily in a scheme called Inside Uni. Can you tell me a little bit more about the work that you do as part of that?

Julia: Yeah, sure. So I got involved with Inside Uni last year when it expanded to Oxford. It's a nonprofit website, which aims to make Oxford applications fairer and more transparent by providing free resources to potential applicants. So, we're trying to close the gap between private school students, who get quite a lot of tutoring and support with their education, and state school students like me, who have felt a bit lost when they were applying. I remember when I started to apply, I had no idea how to go about it and I walked into my application test basically blind. So it's really a great project to try and stop that gap. The resources include things like guides with resources for different courses to help you with further reading and finding out your interests. There are also interview experiences from thousands of current students at Oxford and Cambridge to help you to know what to expect and give tips and advice. We've got a series on what it's like to study from a range of different groups of people, which allow you to ask questions to current students about their experiences. We're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, so feel free to check us out- it's a really, really great project. If you're interest in applying to Oxbridge, it's a really great way to get resources. Our website is insideuni.org and you should be able to find everything there.

Kyla: Amazing, thank you, Julia! I'm also going to quickly plug Zero Gravity, which is a scheme for which I'm the ambassador for Queen's. It's a platform for mentoring for students who are about to start year 13 where they can be matched with someone who studies their dream course at their dream university. We'll help them with their application, we'll run mock tutorials, we'll do mock interviews and then, even after they've got their offers, we continue to support them throughout their A-level period and then prepare for university with them. That can be a really great resource, especially if you're a first-gen student or if you're from a school which doesn't normally send many people to Russel Group universities, as it can be a really great way of building up a bank of experience. Now I'd like to ask you both a question that you may not have prepared for, but I just think that it might be interesting. So, could you tell me a little bit about what a standard week looks like for you in Oxford? So, Jack, do you mind going first?

Jack: Yeah, sure. So third year has been a bit different to the first two years in medicine, so in third year, it's maybe four or five lectures per week, usually in morning. Then in the afternoon, I'll be doing things like preparing for tutorials, which for me are once every two weeks, so that will be writing an essay that's about 1500 words or something like that. Sometimes, I'll be having one of those tutorials, which usually takes around an hour and happens with one other person. Apart from that, for me, my week sorts of consists of playing sports, so I play football for the college and also a bit of rugby as well. So, my schedule hasn't been particularly taxing in terms of that, but I've managed to fill my time with other things outside of uni work. But there's also been a lot more coursework this year, so that's been fitted in around other things.

Kyla: A good balance by the sounds of it! What about you, Julia?

Julia: Similarly, history is quite independent. I would say that I have a similar number of lectures- I probably have about five a week, around one a day. So, a lot of my time is spent doing independent study and essays and reading for my subject. I generally have about three tutorials every two weeks, spread out and for different subjects. You generally take more than one subject a term in history- you take one subject across all three terms a year. I also have classes as well sometimes, instead of lectures, which are more individual work and group-based work. It's a small class of around six to 12 people, which is quite fun because you get to bounce ideas off each other and you have different perspectives. Outside of work, I am involved quite heavily with Inside Uni, I'm their head of social media, and I'm helping to design this year's alternative prospectus. I'm also in an acapella group called In the Pink, which is really fun and something I love to do to kind of unwind. Really, I just spend time with my friends and do normal student stuff, like watching movies.

Kyla: Fantastic, that sounds great! In the Pink are amazing, I've seen you guys on Facebook. So, for each of you, what is your favourite thing about college and why? I like closing with this question, because I feel like it helps the listeners to get to know the interviewees a bit more. So Julia, do you want to start?

Julia: My favourite thing about Queen's is probably the atmosphere. People at Queen's are really friendly and cooperative, which is not at all what I expected when I came here. I'm from a state school in the North East of England and so my knowledge of Oxford was basically only based on myths and movies. I was so worried when I thought about applying initially that it was going to be really cutthroat and that I'd really struggled to make friends, but that's not what happened at all. Everyone here is really lovely and supportive and normal and I have a really great group of friends who I adore and who I'm really looking forward to seeing soon.

Kyla: Lovely, that's so nice! Jack, what about you?

Jack: I was going to say the community, but a lot of that is sort of similar to what Julia was saying. In everything you do, there's a real sense of community in that everyone just sort of has a go, whether that's in the sports clubs or in music or things like that. Anything you do outside of your academic work is just about having a go- we're not that great at sport but everyone just has a laugh and the community spirit is I think probably my favourite thing about it.

Kyla: Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you so much to both of you, that was really really interesting and I'm sure really, really helpful for anybody who listened. Thank you so much, I really appreciate your help and I'll speak to you guys soon.

Julia: Thanks for having us!

Jack: Thank you!

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Kyla: Thank you so much to Jack and Julia for that interesting conversation and a massive thank you to all of you who listened. There are loads more access resources on the Queen's college website at www.queens.ox.ac.uk/access-outreach and you can find out more about the college in general through its website, Twitter and Instagram, including on the access Twitter, @QueensOutreach. That's all from me, have a lovely week and hopefully I'll see you again soon!