Humans of Brasenose: Erin and Susie

Erin Bridgewater

Erin“When I was around 10 years old (I think?) I remember saying to my mum after school one day that I was going to go to Oxford and study English. 10 years later I’m in my second year of my history degree at Brasenose. 

For obvious reasons, nobody took my proclamation that seriously but the desire to study here stuck - albeit on a different course - throughout my life; so when at 14, going through my ‘rebellious’ era, I told my mum I wanted to be in a band, she had a bit of a shock. At this point in my life I was an unconfident, artistic, ‘I hate the system’ teenager; I was scared that I wasn’t smart enough, nor the right kind of person to commit myself to the Oxbridge path. 2 years into my degree, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Things changed when in year 11, my English teacher wrote on the end of my Blood Brothers mock exam ‘talk of Oxbridge??’. It was also around the time I got a new history teacher who put so much joy into the lessons that it was no longer just a tick-box exercise for me, but something that I wanted to and enjoyed studying. My mum and dad, though always my unconditional supporters, did a silent sigh of relief when at the open day for my college I asked to go to the oxbridge talk they put on. So age 16, I became as committed to Oxford as my 10 year old self was … but this time to study law. 

I applied to college doing law, English lit, music and French - I thought I had to be a lawyer to be successful…and I liked arguing! I dropped law after a week because it bored me to death (no offence to any lawyers!!), and swapped to history. Again, it was my wonderful teachers who made the subject so interesting and fun - in fact, I continue to pick papers at Oxford that I covered in some capacity at A-level history because of how much they made me fall in love with the course. They would give me extra books to read or recommend documentaries, giving me the tools I needed to start my love affair with this subject. I worked so hard, through strange covid-times and the trials of becoming a young adult, to get the grades I needed to apply. In no way, shape or form would I have been given an offer to study here had it not been for the unfailing support of my teachers at college. 

The night before offers were released, I slept for maybe 2 hours. Every 10 minutes, all morning of the following day I refreshed UCAS until, sat in my online English lesson, the subject with which this journey started - a poetic element to this story which I hadn’t noticed before - the offer came through. This was deep covid era so I emailed my teachers saying I wouldn’t be in their lessons, my mum called in sick to work and we sat on the sofa with a bottle of Prosecco watching ‘Oxford POV’ videos to celebrate. I couldn’t believe it. Then months later I got the A-levels I needed, and the rest is history - pardon the pun. 

I’m so glad that the voice of 10 year old Erin never got fully drowned out by all the voices saying ‘no’, ‘never’, ‘impossible’. That little girl from Barnsley is now having the experiences of a lifetime with her best friends, reading all the books she ever wanted to read and achieving things she - and a handful of others - never thought she would. I don’t want to be sappy, but the decision to put my faith in myself and apply to Oxford was the best decision of my life.”

Erin Bridgewater, Yorkshire - JCR Access and Admissions Rep, 2nd Year Historian


Susie Weidmann

SusieThe decision to take my Oxford offer now seems like a no-brainer to me, but at the time of accepting decisions it caused me a lot of stress. I remember being so confident that I wouldn’t get in that I’d already made solid plans for my gap year.

To be honest, I didn’t know if Oxford people would be ‘my people’- based purely on myths of the environment being solely studious and antisocial. As a state school student, I was worried that I would be academically out of my depth and not as prepared for the vicissitudes of Oxford, or university life in general. I had also heard a lot of myths about the intensity of Oxford life (and the non-existence of its night-life). Part of me was worried that I wouldn’t experience the quintessential ‘uni’ lifestyle in such a pressurised place.

Despite this, I did really badly want to get in. After my interview, I remember being so sure that I’d screwed it up that I watched a bunch of outreach Q&As with current Brasenose students and asked them loads of questions to try and suss out whether I still had a chance. I still remember opening my acceptance email in the silent study space at school and screaming really loud, to the absolute pleasure of everyone around me.

Being at Brasenose currently, it’s insane to think I ever deliberated turning it down. As someone that wants to pursue acting and writing in the future, studying English at this university and this college has granted me so many opportunities to follow my passions. My main tutor is a specialist in theatre, and being able to converse with an expert daily about the field I want to enter is such a privilege. I’ve been interested in acting since I was 14, and the wealth of student-run drama here is actually overwhelming. In my first term, I performed in the most fun play I’ve ever done, and have been cast in two more for next term, as well as marketing for another play in 5th week. 

Brasenose is also such a welcoming environment. As a state schooler, we make up 87% of the student body here and constantly run student-led tours for sixth-form students, which hopefully demystify some of the myths around Oxford life. The social side of college life is so well-run, and much more active than I thought it would be. Instead of feeling like I’m missing something from the classic university life, I couldn’t feel more at home.

Susie Weidmann, Hertfordshire, 1st Year English

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