Highlights of an Oxford education shared at book launch of Oxformed
The enriching and personal experiences of life at Oxford University were recounted by two friends as they read excerpts from their autobiographical book. Dr Hammad Khan and Dr Shiva Amiri discussed the opportunities and challenges of being international graduate students during the launch of Oxformed: a journey through Oxford at Rhodes House.
They told friends, family and other Oxonians at the event on 9 November how their enduring friendship was forged when they were studying for their doctorates at Wolfson College from 2003 to 2006.
Dr Khan (DPhil, Engineering Science), a Rhodes Scholar from Pakistan, explained how the book was born from a shared desire to document their much-loved student days. He emphasised the importance of debate at Oxford by reading from the book about his experiences of matriculation – the formal ceremony at which students are admitted to Oxford University. Dr Khan recalled how Sir Colin Lucas, then Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, addressed the students and encouraged them to learn by meeting and debating with others holding opposing views.
Iranian-born Dr Amiri (DPhil, Computational Biochemistry) also read an excerpt regarding her early days in Oxford after leaving her home in Toronto, Canada. She stressed the significance of a talk by a representative from Oxford University’s Counselling Service. She said: 'After this presentation it became apparent everyone was feeling the same insecurities. It was a huge relief. ..Most people said they were sure that they were the only person there who had been admitted by mistake.'
Oxformed charts the psychological, social, political, and emotional events that influenced and formed both alumni authors. From tutorials to college bops, from college sport to work in the lab, and from cycling through Oxford’s medieval streets to overcoming loneliness, the book records the many aspects of student life from two different, but intertwined, perspectives.
In addition to documenting personal stories, the authors underline Oxford University’s reputation, its history, and its role in developing a sense of social responsibility. They stress their appreciation at being part of its traditions and alumni body.
In the book, Dr Khan describes how he was delighted to meet Oxford alumnus Sir Roger Bannister – the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. Dr Amiri also mentions attending the North American Alumni Weekend in New York.
The authors conclude: '[Oxford] It made us who we are. It made us dreamers, it made us meet some of the most amazing people of our time, it made us feel that the world was ours to change for the better, and it made us feel the power of the individual…We came out with a bigger hunger for knowledge, with more empathy for our world, with more strength in our hearts, and with a keen determination not to let this experience fade.'
Their lives have now taken them away from Oxford – Dr Amiri works in the neurosciences and as an entrepreneur in Canada, and Dr Khan works in finance in the City of London – but their links with Oxford remain.