Testimonial: Miriam Nemmaoui
Like many of my friends from Oxford, I was a geeky kid at school. I was the head girl, read books compulsively, and was friends with all of the English teachers.
By the time my classmates started thinking about university, I had already got my heart set on the dream of studying English at Oxford. This was perhaps partly due to the fact my dad, an immigrant from Morocco, had instilled in me from a young age the classic first-generation mentality of ‘either medicine or Oxbridge’. I was excited by the prospect of meeting likeminded people who loved to learn. But at the same time, I was also worried about encountering the stereotypes of wealthy students burning £50 notes. I wasn't sure if I would feel like I was the only one who had come from a more ordinary schooling and background.
I went to an underperforming comprehensive in North Wales, where a relatively small percentage went on to study at university. This qualified me for the UNIQ summer school and the Durham Sutton Trust summer school, which really demystified the process of applying to top universities and reassured me that Oxford is not just for posh people! During UNIQ, I also met Amaris, who would later be my coursemate at Mansfield, and who is still my best friend 6 years later.
After discovering that Mansfield had such a high intake of state schoolers (around 80% in 2015) and hearing such positive things about the College's culture during UNIQ, I decided to apply there. I would later learn that these statistics were a result of years and years of work from Lucinda, her team, and their predecessors.
People always say that their College is unique, but I think most Mansfielders will testify that the College really does feel profoundly different from other colleges in Oxford. I found it to be a haven of normal, laid back people. I had guessed that I'd be the only person from above the Midlands in my year group- it turned out that that was not the case at all.
Applying was the best decision I've ever made. In my opinion, there is no better place to call your home in Oxford. It is a shame that Mansfield is sometimes overlooked for being smaller than the other Colleges, but what it lacks in square metres it more than makes up for in its truly pioneering outlook. I think that all the years they've spent trying to make Oxford a fairer place has paid off, not only in the numbers (which are always leading the Oxford pack) but also in the inclusive collective identity of the staff and students.
What Lucinda and the staff at Mansfield have achieved is nothing short of heroic. The College is leading the way to reshape Oxford and access to higher education, and I’ll be forever proud to be a Mansfield alumna.