Hi I’m Austin! I’m a first-year at Queen’s studying English. I’m from New Zealand originally and I went to school in Melbourne, Australia.
What I really like about Oxford’s English degree is that you get to study the whole sweep of writing in English. In first year for example, I am studying four units which cover literary theory and English language, Early Medieval writing (650 - 1350), the Victorian period (1830-1910), and the modern period (1910 onwards). Over the second and third years you fill in the gaps on the timeline!
What I love about this model is that I get to read and really engage with texts that I otherwise never would have even thought about. This year, for example, I have learnt how to read Old English poetry and religious writing, which is actually so much more fun and rewarding than I would have expected, and encompasses so much more than just Beowulf.
In my average week, I would have one or two essays to write and about two to three tutorials (tutes) or classes. My tutes are usually with Ella, the other single honours student at Queen’s, but we are also often joined by some of the joint honours students.
The way tutes work for English students at Oxford is that you get your essay topic about a week before your essay is due. Then you use the week to go and independently research whatever area you find most interesting (the libraries here are amazing!) and then you put your argument together in an essay. Once you get to your tute, you then get to discuss and develop your ideas from your essay with your tutor and your fellow students. This can sound a bit intimidating - I was certainly pretty scared at first - but the tutors are generally a really generous and friendly bunch, so this creates a supportive and stimulating environment to think, not to mention the opportunity to work with tutors who are often experts in their fields of research.
As well as this, I go to quite a few lectures over the week to hear professors from across the university speak. These are usually pretty interesting and the English Faculty provides a stack of different lecture series that you can go to.
I have found Queen’s to have a really welcoming and warm community. We have people from all around the UK and other countries and all sorts of backgrounds. As an LGBT student, I have found the University overall, but especially Queen’s, to be a safe and inclusive place to live and study. Generally, the collegiate system means we live so close to each that you really get to know people and develop very strong friendships, which can support you throughout your degree. I also think it’s important that Queen’s is not a very large college compared to others which means you don’t feel too lost among too many people; equally, it's not ridiculously small, so you don’t become claustrophobic!
There are so many extracurricular opportunities on offer around the Uni more broadly. I’m really into music so I’ve been involved with a few choirs here as well as being part of two student operas, which has been really enjoyable. These kinds of things are a great way to meet people from other colleges as well.
Advice for Applicants
In terms of applying and doing interviews, I would really recommend that you read the stuff that really interests and excites you! Don’t worry so much about reading what you or other people think you ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to read! I think it really matters that the tutors interviewing you, or reading your application, can see that you are really passionate about English and about thinking critically about the texts that you enjoy - to be a tiny bit cynical: they want to see that you have the love for reading that will sustain and motivate you through a three-year English degree!