Nobel Prize-winning activist for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai is starting at Oxford University as a fresher this term. Malala will read PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at Lady Margaret Hall – the first Oxford college to admit women.
But what is it like being a woman or non-binary person of colour at Oxford? We saw the #BlackBoyJoy emanating from the #BlackMenOfCambridge and #BlackMenOfOxford pictures earlier this year. But what have the girls got to say? There is no single story. So, Miss Vogue caught up with 15 women and non-binary people of colour at Oxford, both students and staff, to find out more.
It seems that Oxford can be both academically challenging and emotionally tough, especially if you aren’t white. Frey – a recent graduate – warned that “there’s a lot of racists there,” and when we asked Zara – a 21-year-old medicine student – about her experience of dating she simply replied that she was “confused as to why so many people think that I’m going to be flattered to hear they think black girls are attractive.” Fetishisation and exoticism were buzzwords when it came to questions about dating. “’’Bae’ will most certainly not be found at my university,” 21-year-old English student Princess explained.
Still, as London-born Taiwo says, “you can have fun whilst you’re here!” The women interviewed took part in activities as diverse as athletics and drama, and their recommendations went from getting involved in campaigning for social justice and migrants’ rights to trying out the spice selection of Cowley Road. They gave Miss Vogue their advice about navigating university life for the first time and their top tips for how to look after your mental health. “My biggest takeaway from Oxford,” Nadiya Figueroa, the dean of scholarships and director of leadership and change at the Rhodes Trust, told us, “was lessons in how to fight for happiness. And win.”