Shanika currently works as a Temporary Voice Collective Development Worker with the youth charity, Voice Collective (Mind in Camden). Shanika does this role alongside her part-time PhD studies in the Dept. of Music, Royal Holloway (University of London). Her PhD thesis is an interdisciplinary ethnographic study of fans of the pop group, ABBA. 

“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… My secondary school was 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.

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. 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! We also had some interesting talks and workshop sessions, and got to use the Faculty library.

Shanika’s path to her current role was changed and supported by her experience on a Sutton Trust programme. She told us how much the Summer School helped her identify the best route to take to a career she is passionate about:

“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

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!

We’re always interested to hear the different routes our alumni take – and regularly run career events for our current programmes, to give them an insight into different roles. If, like Shanika, you’d like to share your story – just get in touch with the alumni team.

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