Coming to St Hilda’s changed my life. It’s a big claim, but there’s no doubt in my mind that those three years made a major contribution to making possible the career success I’ve enjoyed since.
I grew up in a working class mining community in Fife. When I wanted to apply for Oxford, I was told by my teachers that people like us didn’t go to Oxford. Luckily, I grew up in a family where I’d been trained to think that I was as good as anyone else, so I stuck my neck out at the age of 16 and was accepted by St Hilda’s.
I’d feared I might face snobbery. I was wrong. I found myself in a community where people were judged on the quality of their minds, not their backgrounds. The only social problem I had was that nobody could understand my accent. Once I’d learned to speak English, I was fine.
I have so many strong and abiding memories of my years at SHC, it’s hard to know where to start or how to stop. I learned how to think for myself; how to hold my own in any situation; and, as JCR president, how to juggle politics and pragmatism. But most important to me are the friendships forged during those three years, friendships that have sustained me and brightened my life.