Fear. This is doubtlessly one of the most pervading feelings among some Oxford students. Unconsciously, it drives us to do more, make things better and try harder.
A friend of mine in Brasenose was rejected from fifteen Milkround companies. He applied because he wants to earn thousands on the trading floor and escape the lifestyle of his parents, Oxford academics. “You have to provide for your family and stuff and my parents just don’t have that kind of money,” I always would hear him complain.
Estelle, one of my hardest-working girlfriends was fretting over coffee, “I don’t know. I’m studying for an Oxford degree but that’s still no guarantee of success in life.” Blues tennis, distinctions in academic results and incredible social skills and she’s still stressing out.
There are more examples. One of my fellow PPEists decided to help out in the organisation of the Oxford Investment Banking Conference because she felt “like she needed something for the CV”. Whenever I meet up with my friend Masha who is studying at the London School of Economics, we always end up talking about how we might not provide our parents with the lifestyle that they provided us. Ask any Oxford undergraduate what they want to do in their life and the answer in the majority of cases will be, “er…I don’t know.”
“My parents fought communism and my grandparents fought their farmer plight so that I can do what I want with my life”
We are the generation that was supposed to have it all – Oxford’s bright young things, comfortable with technology, growing up when Labour’s investment in public services pushes through social mobility barriers and the city of London lures us with drinks and lavish dinners (this year’s Accenture dinner anyone?). We’ve had the education, the social provisions and the freedom to do something great. My parents fought communism and my grandparents fought their farmer plight so that I can do what I want with my life.
Yet, we’re left confused and scared as we consider the vast majority of options offered. Should we be deceived by corporate offerings, losing our souls to banks but leading an economically comfortable lifestyle? Or maybe go onto the political treadmill, join a think-tank and become hotshot MPs? Work for NGOs and charities for peanuts, a profile that fits with the desire of ‘giving something back’? Or try to make it in the ruthless world of media?
“We want to at least maintain the economic standards our parents gave us and some of us will support the rest of the family as well”