Although this time last year I was preparing for my A Levels, it seems like an age has passed since I’ve been at college. As the stack of books that constitute my reading for this week threaten to tip over, I realise that I probably would not be here at Oxford if it wasn’t for my two years at St David’s.
Academically, I loved the subjects that I chose (Geography, Economics, English Literature, and Politics), and that was in no small part due to the fantastic teachers I had. The teachers would take time to answer any questions I had regarding work, even if it meant me sometimes interrupting their lunch! I always felt that I could ask them anything I was unsure about and never felt like I was a burden. I believe this was hugely influential in my overall enjoyment of my studies, and now that I’m in university, being comfortable asking difficult questions has been massively helpful with the work I do in my degree. Having had the opportunity to have inquisitive conversations with my teachers at St David’s has enabled me to do so with my current professors without feeling awkward at all – despite the intimidating reputation Oxford tutors have! I came away from my A levels fully appreciating my experience studying all of my subjects, learning to see the value even in the ones I was most unsure about.
Another thing that I feel has stayed with me from St David’s is the level of academic ambition instilled in the Honours Programme. I felt like I had access to all the resources I needed when I was applying to Oxford due to the personal focus given by the Honours tutors. I’m especially grateful that the college also put in extra effort to support me applying to a handful of American colleges, despite the fact that the process was arduous and required so much more input than UCAS. Aside from that, I feel that the Theology course we did alongside our A levels has been extremely key to my being able to approach university work confidently. Because it was a degree-level course, it bridged the gap between what was expected of us at A levels and what is expected of students at university. I have found that it has direct relevance to my English degree (that many of the Old English poems I study are heavily influenced by early Christian concepts), but more broadly, the style of thinking that was encouraged during the Theology classes is very similar to what takes place during most of my tutorials. I am grateful that I was exposed to such a high level of academic inquiry while I was at college as I believe it has made my first couple of terms of university much less foreign than they could have been.
During my time at college, my teachers were always available to help, both academically and in terms of my welfare. As I was an international student who had moved from Malaysia, I was living away from my family at the time. I couldn’t tell you how much it meant to me that everyone in the college regularly asked how I was coping so far from home, ensuring me that I had plenty of support. This commitment to students’ wellbeing was significant in my academic life during sixth form, as I knew that St David’s would have been more than willing to help me if I had faced anything that could have impacted my studies. Thankfully, my two years went by fairly smoothly, and I was able to enjoy my time at college immensely.
Overall, I feel like St David’s was an amazing environment to be in during the crucial time of sixth form, providing the right amount of focus needed to get through A levels without allowing me to burn out due to the pressure I put on myself. The constant encouragement from the teachers as well as other college staff (particularly Ms McLaren!) motivated me to do the best that I could. Where so many things could have gone wrong, everything in college went right. I say this as I sit overlooking an Oxford quad, setting my alarm for the morning rowing session, remembering that it was St David’s belief in me that made my dreaming spires a reality.