more than just a Society - By Chishimba Kasanga
As a black student, the Oxford Africa Society, alias (AfriSoc), is my home away from home. Upon arriving at Oxford, I felt far removed from my world, home, people, and myself – everything felt strange. Several thoughts ran through my head. Was I “good enough”, would I “fit” in, was I “smart enough”, and did I even deserve to be here? And most importantly, would I find my community in Oxford?
Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of fresher’s week, I missed the AfriSoc stand during the freshers fair and could not sign up for the community. I only learnt about the society in week two from a friend and then attended a welfare tea and cake event. This realisation marked a change in my oxford experience. After weeks of feeling lost, I could finally meet people who shared my experience and understood what I was feeling and my reality. They understood the cultural shocks of coming from a predominantly black country to becoming a minority. They were not used to the cold British weather and the bland food. And they understood imposter syndrome and knew how to overcome it. Experiencing this was surreal. I felt so seen and heard, and at that moment, I solidified my relationship with AfriSoc.
10 months on, I have attended many of the Societies events, including the BOPs, which are my favourite events. AfroBops are hands down, the best Bops in Oxford. They are a medley of different music and dance genres from the African continent. Such happy occasions are a great way to distress and remind us that there is more to life than just academics. Moreover, life is for the living and meant to be enjoyed.
With the warmer weather and brighter days of the Trinity Term, the society organises BBQs and garden parties. As a Southern African (Zambian), we don’t BBQ, we Braai. The difference is not only semantics but taste too. I am often disappointed when invited to British BBQs because the food does not taste the same as how we prepare it. I was sceptical about attending the AfriSoc BBQ, but the food proved me wrong. For the first time in months, I ate food that made my tastebuds leap and dance with joy.
What makes AfriSoc unique is the people, their genuine warmth, empathy, compassion, and support for one another. For me, AfriSoc is more than a Society. It’s the family I have chosen while in Oxford. I couldn’t have made it through my first year of master’s without the supportive community that the society provides. In the spirit of Ubuntu, “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.” Given the love I have received, I am paying it forward by serving as the Society’s General Secretary for the 2022/ 2023 academic year.
I look forward to welcoming incoming African students to this warm community and helping them navigate their Oxford journey. I am always available for a chat and can be reached via the society’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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