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Celebrating 10 years of Pembroke Access: My story by Elizabeth Oladunni

5th June 2019

Welcome to the fourth article in our series of student stories, where we caught up with Elizabeth Oladunni. Elizabeth participated in the Pembroke Humanities and Social Sciences programme in 2014. Following her participation in the programme, at the age of 17, Elizabeth started to consider the possibility of applying to Oxford.

Speaking of her time on the programme, Elizabeth commented:

“I grew up in South-East London, in Peckham and Camberwell. Whilst growing up, my area frequently made the news for its gang-related violence, and academic excellence was often curtailed by the lures of the streets for many young people I knew. I went to local comprehensive schools until age 16, when I decided to try out another state comprehensive in a different part of London. Growing up, I never really gave Oxford much thought, my secondary school did not have any Oxbridge alumni that I knew of; it was only at age 17, that I began to really consider applying to Oxford.

My journey to Oxford was largely due to some of the amazing programmes I participated in whilst at sixth-form. The Pembroke Access Programme made me fall in love with learning, and with History in particular. Whilst at the Pembroke Easter school, we were given the question ‘Was there really an English Industrial Revolution?’ to consider. This was an intellectually stimulating experience for me because it made me question a lot of the assumptions that I had previously taken for granted at school.

Due to the way the school system worked, my approach towards the text was to just memorise and regurgitate facts; however, as I advanced through the programme, I learnt that the best approach was to critically engage with the text. The skills I learnt from the course were very helpful in preparing me for my future studies.

Doing a summer school programme at Pembroke meant that I was familiar with Oxford and with the tutors before I began my undergraduate degree. In addition, because the summer school in the programme was designed to give students on the programme a taste of undergraduate life, the intellectually rigorous nature of an Oxford degree, which entailed weekly readings and tutorials, was also not entirely foreign to me.

In addition, doing the programme also helped me with my school studies, as it nurtured my interest in History and meant that I remained interested and enthusiastic about my History course throughout the duration of my A Level programme.

I had been contemplating applying for Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge, or Liberal Arts courses at other universities. However, upon doing the programme, I decided to study History at Oxford. I ended up making really great friends, the level of intellectual buzz in Oxford is unrivalled, and I had some amazing tutors! My experience at Oxford also taught me that my pre-conceived notions about a place shouldn’t stop me – or anyone – from pursuing excellence; I learnt Oxford is not just for a certain ‘type’ of person, it is a place for people like me too."

Elizabeth went on to apply to Pembroke to study History and Politics and graduated in 2018 with a First Class degree. She is now a trainee solicitor with Slaughter & May.

Elizabeth Oladunni
Elizabeth Oladunni