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Queen's Access Podcast Episode 3: Social Life

Listen to Episode 3: Social Life on YouTube.

Below is a transcript of the episode.

Kyla: Hello and welcome to the Queen's Access Podcast. It's so lovely to have you here and I hope you find this a useful resource in learning more about life at Oxford, but more specifically about life at The Queen's College. My guests this week are Luke Geoghegan, a second year Ancient and Modern History student, Hannah Cole, a second year materials scientist and Pandora McKenzie, a second year PPE student. We'll have a chat about social life at Oxford, both in college and in the city itself and we'll also talk about some of the many clubs and societies on offer. My apologies for any poor audio, these interview have all been conducted over Zoom and the internet connection isn't always completely reliable. For a transcript of this episode, please visit the Queen's website. I hope you enjoy!

(music plays)

Kyla: Hi everybody, thank you so much for being here and I hope you're all doing well! I'm sure you'll be very interesting guests, and we're very lucky to have you here. So, first of all, could each of you start by telling me a little bit about your Queen's journey? So how did you end up at college? Pandora, do you want to go first?

Pandora: Yeah, sure. Hi, I'm Pandora and I do PPE, which is politics, philosophy and economics. I originally settled on PPE when I was like 10 years old, because I decided that my life's calling was to be prime minister... now, not so much. But I just love the combination of three disciplines and I just find it really interesting learning about society. I settled on Queen's actually kind of by chance. I was looking at colleges that were really strong for PPE and I just walked into Queen's as one of the last colleges that I visited on the open day and I just loved the little dome thing that's on top of all our chapel and also the dome that's on top of our front door. It was the architecture that kind of stole it for me and just how friendly everyone was! So that's kind of how I got to Queen's.

Kyla: That's lovely! Luke, how about you?

Luke: Hi, I'm Luke and I'm studying ancient and modern history at Queen's. The reason for ancient and modern is this basically I can never make my mind up what I want to study, so I needed the most amount of choice, so that's why I went ancient and modern. The good thing is, I don't know Latin or Greek and so ancient modern allows you to study those periods of ancient Rome and Greece and whatnot, without actually reading in the originals,which is always handy, so that's why I chose that subject. I too ended up at Queen's, a little bit by accident, really. So, I didn't think about uni or Oxford in general at all really until my A-levels, which went much better than expected. So I thought I'd take a year out and reapply. I already had a mate who was at Hertford and unfortunately they didn't have a big rugby or drama scene. And so I literally looked on the map and Queen's was the college around the corner, saw that they had rugby and music and drama. I had a look at the college online and thought it was absolutely gorgeous, saw the neoclassical library and thought hey ho, that's me! I then applied and I never saw the college or Oxford in person until I came on the interview. When I came for interviews, I was kind of sold and I really wanted to go here. But I think with interviews, it's one of those things that when you get here, even though it sells you all the more, you've got to keep your distance and think, you know, I might not be coming back. But I was very fortunate and I got in and so I came off to Queen's! Yeah so it was just by chance really, but absolutely so glad that Queen's happens to be around the corner from Hertford and it's absolutely wonderful! So, yeah, that's why I'm here.

Kyla: Oh fantastic! And finally, Hannah, how about you?

Hannah: Hi, I'm Hannah, and I do materials science. I got into it in year 11- it's a bit of a niche subject, so I got into it because a family friend did it and then I read more about the subjects. I was like, "oh wow this has physics and chemistry and maths just as a combined subject," which like I really liked. I ended up coming to like choosing Queen's- I chose a bit more decisively than the other two, because there are only seven colleges that do materials science, Queen's being one of them. I must say, the thing that really won me over about Queen's was our beautiful BC, it's a bit shallow but there you go!

Luke: Understandable.

Kyla: So a clarification there: BC is our beer cellar and yeah, I would agree with Hannah that it is one of Queens' highlight features. So Hannah, correct me if I'm wrong but you got an open offer that was underwritten by Queen's, so do you mind just explaining that?

Hannah: So that meant that when I was given my offer, it meant that if I got the grades, I was guaranteed a place at Oxford, but not necessarily at Queen's. So if Queen's was full, I could go to a different college and if nowhere else could take me, then Queen's had to take me if I got the grades. They do this with some smaller subjects, so there's a bit more leeway.

Kyla: Yeah, I think it's much more common for smaller departments. So, for each of you, could just give me a little bit of an idea about what a week looks like in your life at Oxford? So Luke, do you mind starting off there?

Luke: Yeah, no worries. A typical week... well, as a history student, my timetable is rather flexible. So, usually, I rarely make breakfast, so I usually sleep in- I'm quite lazy! So I'll sleep in, so my first meal of the day will be lunch. Then I'll go to like my tutorials or lectures, if I have any those days. Contact hours for a history student can vary between about three to about 10 or 12, depending on how many lectures you want to go to and how many contact hours you choose to have. It's quite varied. So, I do my lectures and spend most of my time in the library, essentially, so I'll do all my reading I can do. Generally the amount of reading I do increases as the deadline nears, I'm not gonna lie! Then I have dinner, go to BC, have a few beers, talk to everyone and catch up on how everyone's been in the week. I then either I go to bed early, or someone talks me into to going clubbing! Then on the weekend, I'll either go to formal dinner, which is really nice, or play a game of rugby and get involved in some societies and whatnot. Then occasionally, there'll be a special dinner or something like that midweek as well or I'll go to a society like Addison society, which is a Queen's and is really cool- I'll probably talk more about that later. But yeah, mostly it's socialising at meals and a BC in the evenings and other than that, I spend most of my time in the library doing all my reading or writing the essays and going to tutorials. It can be quite varied for a history student, because it always depends on how many contact hours you have, unlike science students who spend times in labs. But yeah, I'd say it's really quite an even split for me between being at dinners and in the BC socialising, playing the odd game of pool, which is always a good laugh and a nice bit of stress relief. And then being in the lecture hall or the tutorial room or the library doing a bit study. So it's quite a nice split for me in my average week.

Kyla: That sounds like you've got a really good balance! Hannah, how about you?

Hannah: There's not really a typical week for me. I'm a science student so most days at 9am, I'm walking to the department. On a full day, I'll have three hours of lectures with a break in the middle, and then either in the afternoon I'll do work in the library or in my room and have a tutorial, or I will have labs, which are about three hours twice a fortnight. Then after all that's done, I do societies in the evening, like rowing or Christian Union all of the different things that can be done in the evening. Then quite often, I finish off the night in BC, talking to people!

Kyla: Lovely! Pandora, how about you?

Pandora: So I'm kind of in between the other two. PPE has a semi-structured week, in the sense that you have lectures, like Hannah, we have lectures all morning. Luckily we don't have any 9ams. So from 10am, we have two or three back to back lectures and that's every day. Then I come back to college for lunch, because our lectures are in the Exam Schools which are opposite Queen's, across the road. So I come back for lunch and then my afternoons are either spent in the library or in my room doing readings for my essay. Then in the evenings I just have dinner in hall and then go to BC for socialising or going out, or going to see some friends. I'd say it's a pretty structured kind of schedule, because there tend to be quite a few deadlines piled on top of each other. So, you tend to have to work pretty much all day, and especially the weekends, that's when you have big essay crunches. But I wouldn't say it's unmanageable, as long as you organise and plan in advance and the evenings to me are kind of my downtime. After dinner, that's when I switch off for the day and then I just socialise in the evening.

Kyla: That's great, thank you guys! So let's start by talking about social life in college for this episode. So Pandora, can you take us through what kind of social spaces are available within the college site?

Pandora: Yeah, of course. So, as you probably heard earlier, there's our famous BC, which is the beer cellar, which is the college bar. So every college has a college bar and ours is just called the beer cellar. That's great, that's where basically everyone congregates in the evenings, to chat, to play pool, to play darts, to listen to music. The drinks are really really cheap, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, of course, and so that's really fun being there. Then other spaces we have are the JCR and the MCR. So the JCR is a junior common room, and then the MCR is I the... mature common room?

Kyla: Middle, I think!

Pandora: Middle, sorry, my bad! So, although they're used for meetings, they're also just places where you can hang out and as undergrads you can only go to the JCR. It's really nice just to hang out there and sit on the sofas and play FIFA if you're into that. And then there are other common rooms in other buildings- I think Cardo, which is a second year accommodation, also has a common room in it. Then there's some smaller social rooms in college, like the OTR, which is just off the JCR and is the Old Taberdars Room. It's really nice wood panelled room with big arm chairs and a fireplace and that's really cosy in the winter to just sit and chat. Then there are places like the McGrath room, which is used mainly for events, such as drinks receptions. So those are pretty much the kind of social spaces in college. And there's also nun's garden, which you can go to, and the quads that you can go to if you want an outdoor space. So yeah, a mixture of outdoor and indoor spaces, which are really nice.

Kyla: Perfect, thank you! So sticking with the vein of college life, do you mind telling us a little bit about what kind of events are put on by college?

Pandora: Yeah, cool. So, the main ones are BOPs, which are kind of like college parties that are free for everyone and they happen I think every two weeks. They are usually themed, so they might have like sports themes or under the sea, anything really. And those are lots of fun, that's where everyone just gets together and has a boogie! Then there are some more college-organised events like Burns Night, which is a Scottish celebration, or Christmas dinner and various others. They are usually really fancy black tie dinners with a drinks reception before in the McGrath room. Those aren't free, you have to pay, but there's a different pricing for a drinking or a non-drinking ticket. They're really fun, because you get to dress up and you get to celebrate an event of an evening and eat really nice food. Then the last kind of event I'd say is sports events. So I think the main one in Queen's is Santa Dinner in the winter, where everyone dresses up in Santa costumes and we go out for dinner and then go to a club. Even though it's not college-organised as such, it's a community thing and something that's really special to Queens, I think, and a lot of fun.

Kyla: Great, thank you, that was a really good explanation! So, moving outside of the college grounds, Luke, can you give us a run through of what's on offer in Oxford as a city in terms of clubs, bars and other social spaces?

Luke: Yeah okay, so as a typical city, it's pretty much got every fast food chain or restaurant chain you could think of, from high-end places like The Ivy to Itsu. You've got your KFC, Subways and everything, you even got a Gregg's now, which everyone's very fond of! In terms of high street shopping, you've got your typical venues and some nice designer places as well in Westgate, which is very nice. In terms of going out and socialising, we have not one but two Wetherspoons: The Four Candles, which is very nice and the Swan and Castle, which both have very nice atmospheres. In terms of clubs, there's a big range! There's Plush, which is pretty nice for the LGBT community, then we've got Hanks bar, which is lovely and has both a dance floor and a really nice bar. Then you've got the usual clubs, so we've got the Oxford Atik, which is known as Park End and that's really nice, that's quite a big club with multiple rooms. You've also got a Fever, Circus, Bully (The Bullingdon)... So I think one of the big taboos about Oxford which I found when I was applying was that everyone said it was dead, no one goes out, we all live in the library and there's not much of a nightlife... This is so wrong! It's like a typical city, it's bustling and in nightlife is brilliant. For instance, at matriculation, which is when you become a student at Oxford in this nice ceremony, we went on a pub crawl and we just had too many to choose from. I think when I counted in just the immediate vicinity there were 20 pubs! So there are loads of really nice places to go into and have a drink, there's loads of restaurants, there's loads of bars- whether you want cocktails, you want more of a pub environment or you want to go not a nice restaurant or just you pop into have a nice bit of sushi or whatever. We've got loads of places like that! In terms of not going out and drinking, you've got the Botanic Gardens, University Parks and, as I say, there's loads of restaurants, places to go shopping and just really nice green spaces around town. If you like your running as well, there are so many scenic routes to go out and either have a run or cycle- there are lots of people cycling around Oxford. You've got the Iffley Sports Centre as well and you've got quite a few gyms- I think there's a Pure Gym, which lots of people use, and there's the gym inside Carrodus Quad (a Queen's building) as well, which people are quite fond of and use. At the Sports Centre, there are really good rates if you want to start a three year membership and use the gym facilities there- the track, the swimming pool, which is really nice and I've used myself. So there's quite a lot to do! I think it's definitely a misconception that Oxford hasn't got lots of places to go out- it's got everything you could want and it's absolutely absolutely brilliant!

Kyla: Great, thank you, Luke So, moving away from kind of the more casual side of social life and into the more structured side, what kinds of activities and societies are each of you involved with? So, Hannah, can we start with you?

Hannah: So I'm involved with Materials Society as the social sec for next year and I'm also involved in Christian Union and I'm going to be a college rep for Queen's and Hertford. I also dabbled in a bit of rowing! I've also done a few things very casually, but those are the two main ones.

Kyla: Okay, Luke, what about you?

Luke: So I'm involved in two societies at Queen's. I'm involved in the Addison society, which I mentioned earlier, which is a really nice informal debate society where we have a very nice dinner (again there's non drinking and drinking tickets, so it is a paid event, but you can apply for subsidised ticket, which is very inclusive and very nice of them) and we get special guest in. So I've attended one with Gavin Williamson, who's the Secretary of Education. He came in and we had a nice dinner and then he gives a speech and then you can just ask him questions. There's about 20 to 30 people in the room, it's just really relaxed and it's really nice occasion, so that's quite special and a good opportunity to have a face to face conversation with somebody you never thought you would- that's a really exciting thing! I think it's a dinner per term. I'm also involved in Queen's College rugby, so we have a game every weekend with no training, which I'm sure some people will be very glad to hear about. We obviously meet up for social events and there's a rugby dinner, which is very nice, which most sports teams will have. So yeah, that's nice to be involved in and it's also really nice because there's first to fourth years and it's nice to mix with all years of college rather than just your own year. In terms of societies not just at Queen's, there's Oxford Pards Society. I dabble in cards, I'm quite fond of it and even though I'm not very good, it's still quite a rush and quite a bit of fun, so there's that as well. There's obviously more relaxed things as well, such as Board Game Society, so I'll go and attend a couple of those events as well if I fancy a bit of a chilled night, instead of something a bit more raucous in the town!

Kyla: Great, thank you and Pandora, how about you?

Pandora: So I'm not actually as extracurricular as the other two are, but I do play college netball, so Queen's netball and I'm going to be captain for next year. That was really fun- we have a match every Thursday where we play other colleges and often, I won't lie, we tend to win, we're pretty good! It's just really fun and really chill and even if you haven't played netball ever before, loads of people just come together. It's a mixed team, by the way, not just girls but yeah it's really fun for anyone to come along to! More widely in Oxford, I attend a few Law Society events... mainly for the merch! No, but it's also just a great way to learn about the future. There are tonnes of societies that help you with your career and help you to further and broaden your interests. So that's another good thing in Oxford to do and that's something that I really enjoy as well.

Kyla: Thank you, that's great! So, Hannah, you mentioned that you're the social secretary for Materials Society, so can you go through what that entails?

Hannah: So every society will have an Exec, which has different people that help run the activities of the society, and most societies have a social secretary. So the sort of thing that that involves is welcome drinks for new freshers coming in and welcoming them to the society. It can involve doing quizzes for everyone to get involved in and it can also involve drinking events, such as crew dates. It can also involve non-drinking events, such as brunches and all sorts of things like that. It's just making sure that there's a place that people that do materials can hang out outside of the course and get to know people in different years and have fun together really!

Kyla: Brilliant! So crew dates are usually where I think two societies tend to meet up, but I think it can be one, maybe if it's a big society. They go to a restaurant, and there's usually quite a degree of drinking involved, but yes there are a really big laugh! Okay, great, thank you guys, that's been super helpful and I'm sure you've cleared up any questions people had about social life at Queen's! So, to close, I would just like to ask each of you: what is your favourite thing about college and why?Pandora, can you start us off?

Pandora: Oh, that is a very hard question! I'd have to say, the thing that I love most about being here is how friendly everyone is. I was really nervous coming to uni and not knowing whether I'd fit in or whether I'd find my friends. Everyone's just been so welcoming and everyone's got a smile on their face and not just in my year, but in every year. Everyone's so eager to help, and that's something that I found really comforting and and welcoming, because it is a really overwhelming thing, moving to uni, and if everyone makes it as smooth a transition as possible, then it just makes everything a little bit easier. I think that's something that's really special about Queen's.

Kyla: Yeah, definitely. I think sometimes, from the outside, it can seem like Oxford would be quite a competitive environment, but I for one moved to Queen's and found that it's significantly more collaborative and supportive than it is competitive and I think that's a really nice thing. How about you, Luke, what's your favourite thing about college?

Luke: Yeah, sorry I'm gonna have to say pretty much the same answer building on that- it's probably the community at Queen's! I'll give an example: I've got to give a shout-out to Animals, which is the seconds men's football team at college. I am the worst football player you have ever seen, definitely at Queen's, possibly at Oxford- I am shocking. Yet the group of gents at Queen's and the environment is so supportive and encouraging that even I had the confidence to put my boots on and go out and play a game of football and go to the football dinner and I had a great time! I think the community is really embodied in the sports at Queen's, which are maybe not the most competitive, but certainly the most supportive and probably the best sense of community you can get. Where it really shines for me is the fact that you can take part in sport and you know that you can just relax and enjoy it for sports' sake, which is always think a really positive thing. That's probably the moment when I really clicked with Queen's- when I felt comfortable playing a sport I know I'm crap at and still managing to have fun and everyone else did as well, so that's that's always a good sign. So yeah, I'd definitely say the community at Queen's and just the way people support and build other people up is really good thing in my eyes.

Kyla: Fantastic and Hannah, how about you?

Hannah: I'm going to have to say along a very similar line to the two! I think the really good thing is that Queen's allows you to get out of a 'freshers bubble', so you have lots of people around you that are freshers, but it's so great to have the older students in college to guide you and help you out if you're a bit stressed about something. I've really enjoyed having a supportive network of older students. It also allows you to get outside of just your course and you can know people that do so many courses- at Queen's, I've met so many people who've been like "Materials is a course???" It's just so cool to have so many different courses and so many different perspectives!

Kyla: Right, well thank you all so much! That was super interesting and I'm sure really, really helpful for anybody who listened. So, I really appreciate you all agreeing to be guests and I'll speak to you all soon!

Pandora: See you!

Luke: See you, bye!

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Kyla: Thank you so much to Luke, Hannah and Pandora for that interesting conversation and a massive thank you to all of you who listened. There are loads more access resources on the Queen's college website at and you can find out more about the college in general through its website, Twitter and Instagram, including on the access Twitter, @QueensOutreach. That's all from me, have a lovely week and hopefully I'll see you again soon!