By Soo Yi Yun
Shelley Billington, Oriel’s first female night porter, supports feminism and enjoys her relationships forged in the college. Her last day as the night porter at Oriel was 16 February 2018.
I started working at Oriel in July 2016. I was looking for a job with different challenges, so I decided to apply for this position. Despite having been in residential security before I took the job, I had no inkling of how the Oxford college porter system works. Though, I have heard of the college traditions as I grew up in Oxford. I worked for Gillman and Soame in the past, so I knew about the gowns and stash, but I never experienced the traditions until I worked at Oriel. Since then, I have started to learn the ways of college, including going out and flying the flag.
Memorable moments at Oriel include forming good friendships with colleagues and interacting with the students. There were students who brought us [porters] nice gifts at Christmas and popped by for friendly chats. I like watching the students performing the Oriel Garden Play and having summer parties on the lawn. Bop nights are always amusing – trust me when I say I have seen far too many naked boys on the CCTV cameras! So, students – always remember that the porters are the eyes and the ears of college. My favourite spot at Oriel is the library, as it’s a beautiful place to patrol on my evening shifts.
So far, I have witnessed two batches of freshers coming in and supported them throughout their process of settling in and eventually, living in college, but I did not notice any significant changes within the student body during my time here. However, the college scene changes quite a lot during the vacation. Working here was like running a hotel when Oriel opened up ‘Bed and Breakfast’ for the first time during summer of 2016. Many weddings were held at the chapel, followed by drinks at the Second Quad during the holidays.
College porters are usually the first point of call before the deans to provide support to students. The challenges I have encountered in my job include students endangering themselves emotionally and/or physically due to drug overdose, intoxication, or mental health issues. I have been trained to handle such situations, as well as in providing first aid, but it is always difficult to see students going through a tough time.
One of my bits of advice to students is to not be afraid to seek support. It is quite sad to witness mental breakdowns among the students: too many students struggle with stress during the exam period, particularly at the last minute. Remember to seek support from your friends, the deans, or even drop by the porters’ lodge – we are always here for a chat.
Finally, my last piece of advice would be STOP LOSING YOUR KEYS AND BOD CARDS!!! – capitalised and followed by several exclamation marks.