Earlier this year, the Sutton Trust spoke with one of our alumni, Shanika, on her background and how the Sutton Trust have supported her in getting her to the position she is in today.

Tell us a little bit about your background…

“I’m from a South Asian, non-affluent family (myself and my sisters were eligible for free school meals. My mum taught us piano because we couldn’t afford to learn otherwise, and our second instrument tuition was heavily subsidised by the local music services and other charities). My secondary school is a comprehensive school in West London (near Heathrow Airport). It’s a friendly school but had very poor A Level results when I was there, with very few students progressing onto top unis.”

How did you hear about the programme?

“Although my school had been sent information about the Sutton Trust summer schools, our Sixth Form never passed on the information to students! I was fortunate that my older sister was aware of these summer schools, and suggested I should put in an application. I applied because the opportunity seemed too good to be true – especially as it was free! – and I wasn’t sure at that point whether Oxford was really a uni I wanted to apply to

Did you know what you wanted to do for a career before university?

“Before I started uni at Oxford in 2007, I thought I wanted to be a performer and do a Masters course at a music college (if I could find the money – they’re very expensive!). Doing the workshops and listening to talks during the Sutton Trust summer school exposed me to a very different kind of music course (esp. music historiography) that was more suited to me”

Can you tell us what you remember about your programme? What stands out?

“It was a really eye-opening opportunity for me, helping me to realise that Oxford was not just a uni I could apply to, but that I would really thrive at. I remember the student organisers/chaperones going out of their way to make it an incredible experience for us – they even organised for us to attend an opera! It was my first time ever attending an opera, and we had a picnic in the cloisters featured in the Harry Potter films beforehand! We also had some interesting talks and workshop sessions, and got to use the Faculty library.

I made two good friends during my summer school, and am still in touch with one of them via Facebook!”

Any other reflections or memories you’d like to share?

“I’m really thankful for my time at the Sutton Trust summer school. I feel it really helped me be more comfortable with the Oxford interviews later that December, and helped cement that Oxford was the best academic environment for me – even though media stereotypes would say otherwise!”

If, like Shanika, you’d like to share your story with us – just get in touch with the alumni team via [email protected].

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