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Teen spirit with a passion for the theatre

Naomi Morris Omori describes how her alma mater, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, helped her achieve her dreams at Oxford University

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My primary school was very normal and like many other small, non-selective prep schools – the only exception was that it was a British school set in the heart of Tokyo, Japan. My senior school was another world. Instead of having to manage the bustling streets of Shibuya Hachiko crossing every morning, I wound my way through the lines of people in the marble corridor at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. My new school was at least ten times as large and nearly 6,000 miles away from home.

My mother is British and wanted to send me to a senior school in the UK. She chose the college because it was day and boarding, single-sex, and because of its reputation for happy and fulfilled girls enjoying a well-rounded education. There was also the added bonus that they taught Japanese.

The principal, Ms Eve Jardine-Young, who boarded in Malawi, and her predecessor, Ms Vicky Tuck, who is now director general of the International School of Geneva, both nurtured the school’s global outlook, which is a core part of its ethos. One of the best aspects of my six years spent there was that I was exposed to different viewpoints simply through the multi-cultured fabric of the school.

I am incredibly grateful for the privilege of having the excellent education I had at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. The teachers were nothing short of inspirational and filled us with confidence. My English teachers’ passion for their subject was so infectious that I knew I wanted to read the subject at the age of 15 and worked hard to earn my place at Oxford University.

The process of applying to Oxford was, of course, an incredibly nerve-wracking one. Interview horror stories began circling in the early autumn of my first year of sixth form and the idea that we would be tested on everything we knew condensed into 20 minutes was terrifying. The college helped me prepare for my personal statement discussions by organising a mock interview and it turned out to be a success. My tutor seemed particularly impressed that I had read Middle English outside of lessons. Everyone that I met during the application process was wonderfully welcoming. I enjoyed my interviews and was given an offer in early January.

College taught us to be determined and resilient, and not to be afraid of aiming high. In a competitive world, these are invaluable life skills, particularly for women, and those lessons were the best preparation that I could have received for university.

Another huge part of my life is the theatre. I was fortunate that, just as I arrived, Cheltenham Ladies’ College had opened a brand new theatre, the Parabola Arts Centre. It was only in sixth form that I discovered my love for directing and since arriving at Oxford, this is what I have enjoyed pursuing the most outside of my degree.

I have been involved in five productions so far, including Orlando, based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Passion by Stephen Sondheim and West Side Story at the Oxford Playhouse. This term I am directing Singin’ in the Rain at the Oxford Playhouse, which will be a creative challenge, but one that I am immensely excited about. When leading a team of 80 people, it is my loud voice that I have to thank Cheltenham Ladies’ College for. Organising the play-in-a-day at the college’s house drama competition, in a slightly chaotic fashion admittedly, was a useful experience and the team spirit that we learned from a young age has stood me in good stead.

Now, well into my second year, I often think of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and am glad for the memories and experiences that it gave me. Undoubtedly, I am enjoying university so much because of the self-belief that college instilled in me and the encouragement we received to pursue what we love doing.