Ella's Story

What’s does Oxford mean to you?

I’ve wanted to come to Oxford since I understood what university was, so although it sounds really cheesy, my favourite thing about studying here is that it’s a dream come true! One thing I’ve loved about Oxford is that I’ve met some of the best but strangest people. The quirkiness is wonderful – you can be as strange as you want, and that’s fine: you look across the street, and there’s Mick who wears a bowler hat each day. At school you might be the ‘clever kid’, but you get here and that’s everybody. You have to work out whether academic success is the only thing that’s important to you, or whether you find something else.

 

Like everyone, I found that experience tough, but it was something I’d already had a taste of. I went to high school until I was sixteen, and then to a different sixth-form centre, which was a lot bigger. So, while I was the clever kid at GCSE, when I got to college and there were thousands of us, I began to think “Oh, there’s loads of clever people - what does it mean to be successful now?” I don’t see success in terms of how much money you can get, how many qualifications you can get or how important you are – instead, I’d focus on the good you can do. I think that if you leave the world better for you having been there, that’s far more important than you getting a plaque somewhere – even if you’re anonymous, but did good, it’s probably a life well lived.

 

What makes you happy?

Material things certainly can’t buy happiness: all the money in the world can’t get you meaningful relationships, but those are the things which make you the happiest. I just can’t imagine myself in a situation where I’m on a six-figure salary but have no time for friends and family. I think financial security buys a degree of happiness, because you’re not worried about falling into destitution, but when I think about what I want from my life, it’s not me on my own in high-brand shops, or dining in expensive restaurants - it’s me spending time with people that I love, feeling like I’m making a positive impact on the world. I think that’s the truest way to happiness.

 

Friendships are a funny thing. I got to know one of my school friends because she sold me a guitar. My brother is very musical, and I was a pretty random child, so I thought ‘I’ll buy him a guitar’; this girl in my form – we’d hardly met before – said she’d sell it to me for a tenner. So I bought it off her, then I sold her a few bracelets that I made, because I wanted to be a fashion designer, then eventually we were in the same class we became friends that way. That was a few years ago now, but it’s the same at university. There are some people you can point to, and when you remember your first impressions of them, it’s hilarious - knowing them as you do now, you think about your initial reaction and realise it’s ridiculous.