We asked students of colour what they love about Cowley

‘It’s so normal, I love it. No Eton boys running around’


It’s fifth week, I’m skint and I’m considering paying a portion of my battels directly to the Bodelian libraries given how much time I’m spending there. I’m not sure the welfare alpacas will fix this but you know what might? An afternoon visiting all the shops on Cowley road.

Oxford is a beautiful place full of dreaming spires and ancient landmarks. It is impossible to walk through the city without absorbing its history but as a student of colour this can be alienating. With colleges still boasting statues of colonial giants, you start to ache for something that feels like home. Enter Cowley, Oxford’s epicenter of ethnic culture and haven to homesick students of colour. When times get tough, you can be sure to find me in Tahmid’s Grocery store on Cowley road spending my maintenance loan on the snacks that remind me of home and I have been known to walk across the city for Chicken Cottage. I’m not alone in the comfort I find in Cowley.

The Oxford Tab spoke to three students of colour about what Cowley means to them, here’s what they had to say:


Zahraa and a friend on Cowley Road

When asked why she loves Cowley, Zahraa, 19 an Iraqi student from Harrow road, West London replied: “The chicken shops, what more can be said?” Zahraa said that she loves Cowley for its normality: “Oxford city centre is beautiful but I feel like a visitor there, not like I’m at home.”

“Cowley is just normal, it’s what 80 per cent of the country outside of this city looks like and the diversity here is similar to what I grew up around.”

Like many Oxford students, Zahraa rents a flat in Cowley and she says that living in the neighbourhood makes her feel like she has found a home in a city she never imagined she would.

Caleb and friends outside their flat in Cowley

Given that students tend to populate most of Oxford’s central areas, It’s unsurprising that the demographic of Cowley isn’t worlds apart from the rest of central Oxford. Caleb, 20, a Nigerian from Moston, Manchester told The Oxford Tab he tends to hang around Cowley Road, rather than venturing deeper into Cowley which is more inaccessible without a car.

“My street [in Cowley] is still predominantly white, and in that aspect, in terms of the faces you see, Cowley is like the rest of Oxford,” Caleb said.

Despite this however, Caleb told The Oxford Tab that his favourite food places in Oxford are all in Cowley and that “with all the ethnic shops, Cowley feels reminiscent of what you might find back home”.

Megan on Cowley Road after visting Chicken Cottage

Megan, 19, is of Jamaican and Ghanaian heritage and grew up in Walthamstow, East London. She described Cowley as an escape from central Oxford’s tourist attractions.

“It’s a change of scenery, there is more to Oxford than old buildings that all look the same, uni students and posh people. Oxford terms are condensed, making parts of the city centre feel impermanent, like they disappear every eight weeks along with the students,” Megan said.

Megan told The Oxford Tab that the permanence of Cowley is what she most enjoys. “It makes me feel grounded knowing that people live there and real communities exist there outside of the Oxford student bubble.”

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