Viewing archives for Undergraduate

Introduction

I’m AJ, a second-year Classics student (studying course 1A, meaning I had both Latin and Ancient Greek A-Levels before arriving) from London. I’m also a disabled student, which presents its own unique challenges to studying at Oxford, but with the support of tutors, friends, and staff, I don’t think it’s held me back at all.

College experience

The course is initially quite prescriptive: you’ll have weekly language classes at the faculty and your tutorials for the first year and a bit are focussed on giving you a good grounding in the Classical world. On my course, you study both the Iliad and the Aeneid in the original language, so there is certainly a lot to get your teeth into. You do also get some flexibility in options, picking a philosophy subject and your special subject (where the options range from Ancient History to Archaeology to Historical Linguistics). I really like this because it gives you a chance to explore your interests and try things out before you pick your specialties for finals. I enjoy my tutorials a lot: I have found them to be quite relaxed and the conversation is led by the students, allowing you to make the most of your learning. I do an essay each week as well, which gives the opportunity to delve into things that I find most interesting about the topic. 

Advice for applicants

The course is initially quite prescriptive: you’ll have weekly language classes at the faculty and your tutorials for the first year and a bit are focussed on giving you a good grounding in the Classical world. On my course, you study both the Iliad and the Aeneid in the original language, so there is certainly a lot to get your teeth into. You do also get some flexibility in options, picking a philosophy subject and your special subject (where the options range from Ancient History to Archaeology to Historical Linguistics). I really like this because it gives you a chance to explore your interests and try things out before you pick your specialties for finals. I enjoy my tutorials a lot: I have found them to be quite relaxed and the conversation is led by the students, allowing you to make the most of your learning. I do an essay each week as well, which gives the opportunity to delve into things that I find most interesting about the topic. 

Introduction

Hi, I’m Annie and I’m a first-year Medicine student from London.

It sounds cheesy but my favourite thing about Medicine is the people studying it. Everyone is so lovely and there’s a strong community spirit amongst the medical students, whether we are organising bar crawls or sharing revision tips. I think it’s one of closest-knit courses at Oxford. Our course has three pre-clinical years, where you are essentially doing Biomedicine, so be prepared to study things which seem very distant from patient care, such as the genomic structure of bacteria! You then have three clinical years based at the JR hospital.

If you are thinking of applying, I’d say follow any opportunities you have that vaguely relate to medicine/health, whether it’s work experience, volunteering, or extracurricular projects. However, not everything you do has to revolve around getting into Medicine. It’s also ok to keep up hobbies just because you enjoy them! When I was at school I loved rock-climbing and it has been great to continue with this at Uni.

College experience

What really surprised me about coming to Oxford was the volume of independent work and research you have to do –  you’ll be given an essay title, sometimes a list of textbooks, and you’ll be expected to teach yourself the topic to a fairly high level. At the same time, I think most people surprise themselves by adapting to this pretty quickly, as the tutors have full confidence that you’ll suit this kind of work.

As well as occasional climbing, I volunteer with Jacari, a charity which provides free tuition for local kids who speak English as an additional language and need some help. People sometimes talk about the ‘town vs gown’ culture but there are lots of ways to get involved with Oxford as a city if you’d like to, and I think it’s nice to get to know people who live in the city where you spend three or more years of your life. I’m also on the MedSoc Committee as an Entz (Oxford jargon for entertainment) rep, and this has been a great way to get to know other Medical students outside of College better.

One of the best things about Queen’s is the lunches. After returning from a gruelling morning of four back-to-back lectures, there’s nothing I want more than a big plate of spaghetti bolognese with three kinds of potato to accompany it (seeing friends is, of course, an additional bonus!). I’m also a big fan of the Saturday formal halls, which are slightly pricier (around £8-9 at the time of writing), but it feels very luxurious to get dressed up and go to a three-course dinner.

As part of the JCR committee I’m one of the Webmasters. I applied in part because I heard it was the least stressful role, but also because of the cool name! Though the main chunk of the job is to keep the website up-to-date, it has also been interesting to take on more responsibility with other projects, and learn about the inner workings of the College, such as by collating a list of the financial support resources available to students.

I think it’s great that Oxford has a collegiate system as it is much easier to get to know people in a smaller group like a college – you don’t feel like another face in a crowd. Plus, I love having friends from a variety of subjects, which I think is harder at other unis where you might mainly socialise with others on your course.

Introduction

I’m Bethan and I am currently a first-year medic at Queen’s. I’m from Ingleton, which is a small village in the Yorkshire Dales, and I went to a state school nearby.

Medicine at Oxford is quite different to many other universities. Being a traditional course means that our first three years are pre-clinical, and so are very focussed on the science underpinning medicine. In the first year, the content is divided into physiology and pharmacology, organisation of the body, biochemistry, and medical genetics. We study these in a variety of ways, including lectures, tutorials, and seminars. Much of our learning is reinforced by practicals. Anatomy is supported by sessions in the demonstration room, where we have access to prosected specimens, and we have histology practicals where we use microscopy to look at the cellular organisation of tissues.

Tutorials are a brilliant opportunity to discuss topics you have learnt/will learn about in lectures in much greater detail with tutors who are knowledgeable about the subjects covered. They’ve definitely been one of my favourite aspects of the course, particularly because the tutors at Queen’s are so friendly and patient. Our organisation of the body tutorials in the first year are run by practicing doctors, which means that we’re able to discuss anatomy, embryology, and endocrinology in a very clinically relevant way. Our tutorials vary in size – for biochemistry and physiology & pharmacology tutorials, we go in pairs, while our organisation of the body tutorials are either in threes or with all six of us together.

Another part of the course that I’ve found very rewarding is the patient/doctor course. This involves us going in pairs to meet patients with diseases we’re learning about at the time (e.g. diabetes or a heart problem) in their homes, where we get to talk to the patient and start practicing history-taking. After each meeting with the patients, we then meet as a group at a local surgery with our GP tutor, and discuss the patients we’ve seen.

College experience

While the workload in Oxford is pretty full-on, there’s still lots of time for doing other things, both in and out of College. I took up rowing this year – while I’m very much lacking in ability, I’ve really enjoyed the social aspect of it, with tug of warpids (the off-water replacement for Torpids, which was cancelled because of the river levels) being a particular highlight. There have also been a number of Medic bar crawls and crewdates throughout the year which have been fun ways of getting to know the other students doing the course and making friends outside of College.

My favourite thing about Queen’s is the people – everyone is so friendly – and it is lovely to have the opportunity to get to know people from such a wide range of backgrounds, and with such varied interests. The Beer Cellar is a social hub, where I have spent many a happy evening chatting with friends, as well as attending the ‘bops’ (parties) that take place there. The library at Queen’s is also a wonderful resource: with three floors, each with a distinct atmosphere, there’s a desk for every occasion (mainly frantic essay-writing after a period of procrastination).

One of the aspects of life at Queen’s that I have found most reassuring is the College family system. Each Fresher is given college parents, who are there to be asked stupid questions, to give advice about your course and student life, and as friendly faces to look out for around College. Evensong in the chapel is another thing I’ve found very relaxing, and you definitely don’t need to be religious to appreciate it. I’m an atheist, but I love listening to the choir singing so beautifully, and it’s the perfect opportunity to take some time out from the busy Oxford life.

It would also be criminal for me to talk about life at Queen’s without discussing Hall. College lunch is the highlight of every day, and is what keeps me going through long mornings of lectures. The roast dinners also deserve a mention – I have been known on several occasions to have one for both Sunday lunch and Sunday dinner, which speaks volumes about how delicious they are.

Introduction

I’m Ella, I study English at Queen’s and I’m from Hebden Bridge (a little town in West Yorkshire). I went to state school before coming to Oxford, and I’m currently in my first year here.

My favourite thing about my course is the flexibility. You really get a chance to focus on your favourite texts and your favourite parts of texts, and it’s very rare that you have to write on a subject you’re not interested in. In the first year we take four papers, in which we study literary theory, Old English Literature (650-1350), and literature from the Victorian (1830-1910) and modern (1910-present) periods. We also get the chance to do language analysis on non-fictional texts – i.e. recipes, news articles, and tweets – to see the subtle ways that language can alter our perspectives on things, which has been really interesting. My tutorials are mostly in pairs: it can be intense when there’s only two students and a tutor – this is something you don’t get at most other universities. However, it’s a unique opportunity to get a lot out of your teaching, and the tutors at Queen’s are really friendly. We usually do one essay a week, sometimes two, and we have classes on background reading for our essay topics and attend lectures to help our contextual understanding. 

College experience

What surprised me most when I arrived at Queen’s is how very few people fit the ‘Oxford’ stereotype. Before arriving I was worried I wouldn’t find people like myself – and I was really wrong! That being said, one of the best things about studying here is also finding people who are not like myself at all. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know people from very different backgrounds, from all over the world who I may never otherwise have met, and I think it’s really helped to open my mind. I play University netball, which has been a good way to make friends from other colleges, and take time away from studying. We have weekly socials, which are often in fancy dress, and involve crew dating other sports teams, followed by clubbing in Park End. In March we had our annual Varsity match, where we played against Cambridge – our biggest rivals! We won, of course.

My favourite thing about Queen’s, and the reason I chose it when I applied, is our College bar’s cocktail – Sex on the Quad. Orange juice, cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and vodka, for the reasonable price of £3. Also, our Upper Library is very beautiful, something I didn’t realise until after I arrived, but is definitely an added bonus. The collegiate system is one of my favourite things about university. It makes it so much easier to settle in when you have a small community who you can get to know; within weeks you can recognise most as familiar faces. Another thing I love about Queen’s is the people, I genuinely think we have one of the most welcoming communities of staff and students.

Advice for applicants

The best advice I was given before applying here was to read what I enjoyed, not what I thought I ‘should’ read. Chances are, if you are offered an interview, your passion for the subject is much more likely to shine through when you’re talking about a book you loved reading.

Introduction

I’m Klara and I’m about to begin my second year reading French and Linguistics. I’m from Sydney, Australia, which meant that I was very unfamiliar with the application process for Oxford before looking into it myself.

To be perfectly honest, there was nothing which made French stand out to me more than any other modern European language with which I was familiar at the time. I was fascinated by linguistics, and so looked into courses that involved it. Naturally, modern languages came up and I decided to apply for French simply because it was the language in which I was most confident. Yet I always knew that the language I ultimately decided to pick was not as important as knowing the way in which it would be taught at Oxford, for the most enjoyable aspect of the course is the freedom it allows for one to delve further into areas in which one is most interested, and this is even more so the case as the years progress.

It is important to remember that you are expected to have done all the reading and preparation before turning up to a tutorial, contrasting with the way most lessons in school were structured, where one would consolidate knowledge through homework after new content was introduced in a class. The Oxford system is unique in this way, and allows you to engage in more substantial discussions in tutorials and make the most of the time you have with your tutor, which admittedly is not a considerable amount in the course of the short eight-week terms! Most important of all is to read widely around your subject as well as in depth, because these ultimately become the guiding thoughts behind your own theories and interpretations that you will come to develop in the course.

All in all, the course represented a relatively small part of the Oxford experience in the past year. Outside of tutorials and time spent writing weekly essays, I was often rushing between a number of societies to which I had signed up during the Freshers’ Fair, including just about every language society, Physics society, Philosophy society, the Bibliophile society (which holds fantastic events that allow you to visit rare collections in the libraries of other colleges), amongst others. There was a brief spell of coxing too, which afforded a lovely view of the river Isis at sunrise, and much bell-ringing, several times a week before Evensong.

College experience

Speaking of Evensong, life in Oxford is largely affected by college life, and Queen’s, at least to all those who go there and to a good number of students from other colleges, is certainly one of the friendliest colleges. The College upholds many of its age-old traditions – and this makes Hall particularly enjoyable. Having been Arts Rep for the past two terms, it was a joy to have the opportunity to organise College events throughout the term, including our very first Giant Easter Egg Hunt, a “creative portraiture” gallery in the JCR, and a lockdown photography competition during the odd remote term that we had for Trinity 2020.

There is, as a general rule, always something going on in Oxford, and you need only keep half an eye open to be endlessly entertained and curious during your time here.

Introduction

Hi, I’m Kyla and I’m a first-year chemist. I’m from the Wirral, near Liverpool and I went to a state grammar school.

I love studying chemistry here because I get to cover a really wide range of topics with a good balance between breadth and depth. My course is very structured, which I find agrees with my learning style, as it makes it very easy to slip into a routine and manage the workload. I have ten lectures per week (a 9 am everyday sounded horrible at first, but now I’ve realised that it gets me up and gives me a productive start), one maths class, 12 hours of labs with one week off in every four and usually one or two tutorials. It sounds like a lot and that’s because it is – Chemistry is one of the degrees with the most contact hours. But if you really enjoy the subject and you’re a fan of structured learning, I think you really won’t find that to be a problem, because there’s still plenty of time to relax and do things you enjoy.

My tutorials are far more relaxed than I expected them to be at first and that’s down to the tutors themselves: they’re so friendly and helpful and I really know that they’re looking out for me. For chemists, we complete a problem sheet which we hand in before each tutorial and that forms the basis of the session. The tutors will mark the sheet and we go through it as a group; then we go deep into the topic and do some wider learning to give us a good understanding of what we’re covering. 

For me, the best thing about studying at Oxford is that you get to speak to people who are intensely interested in their subject and so you constantly have the opportunity to learn from really passionate people. Even if it’s a subject you’ve never thought about before, everyone is so enthusiastic that it’s hard not to feel permanently curious. I think the thing that surprised me most when I started was how much everybody likes to relax as well as work. I thought it would all be so intense all of the time, but everybody needs down-time and so there are always so many fun things to do of an evening and of a weekend. I’m not particularly productive in the evenings and I’ve found that I’ve only had to work past dinner a handful of times! Something cool that I’m part of is the SchoolsPlus initiative within the Oxford Hub (Oxford’s main source of volunteering opportunities). Every week, I go to a local primary school and help year one and year two students with their reading- it’s so rewarding and serves as a really adorable study break!

College experience

When I moved into Queen’s at the beginning of Freshers’ Week, I could immediately tell what a welcoming and inclusive community Queen’s had. All of the second-years who helped to unpack the car were so friendly and my College parents immediately hugged me and told me how excited they were to meet me! The collegiate system made making friends so much easier, because there was a small community of 101 Queen’s Freshers that I could get to know (kind of like having a school year), but then so many more people that I met through my course and extracurricular activities.

I hold the JCR (Junior Common Room) Exec position of Access and Outreach rep, so it’s my job to coordinate College tours, interviews, and to run online schemes like this to get people interested in applying! There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine fitting into Oxford at all and now it’s my home and I can’t think of a place I would rather be.

Advice for applicants

If you’re interviewing for Chemistry, my biggest piece of advice would be not to worry if you get asked something you don’t understand.  The interviewers are there to see you work through the problem and help you get to a solution! If you don’t know something, say something like “The reason I’m stuck is that…” and that’ll just help them to see what kind of problem-solver you are. In terms of preparation, I would recommend having a look at MOOCs on websites like Future Learn and downloading some of the HE+ exercises for some wider reading. Just get used to always asking ‘why?’ when you don’t feel you have a good grasp on something – that kind of inquisitive nature will serve you very well!

Introduction

I’m Seren, I study Biochemistry at Queen’s and I’m from Sevenoaks in Kent. I went to a state grammar school in the outskirts of London before coming to Oxford, and I’m currently in my first year here.

I love the breadth of the Biochemistry course at Oxford – in the first year we study lots of different aspects of cell biology on the molecular level, including looking at different proteins, DNA, metabolism, and signalling, as well as some background physics and organic chemistry that helps us to understand techniques like X-ray crystallography, and the mechanisms enzymes use to catalyse a reaction.

Tutorials are usually in pairs or as a group of three, which provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of concepts with someone who is an expert in that particular field. We usually have one or two tutorials per week in first year. The tutors may ask you difficult question which you don’t initially know the answer to, but they help you to reach the answer by giving you more information about a concept you are already familiar with, or a different angle from which to look at a problem.

I also love how studying Biochemistry here is an integrated masters course, because it gives you research experience and this is also provided by the practical side of the course. In first year, we have labs every Friday, with some of the experiments looking at mitochondria, amino acid metabolism disorders, antibiotics, and enzyme activity, as well as using programs like PyMol to look a the structures of enzymes.

College experience

Student life at Queen’s is great, and despite the workload, there is very much a work-hard/play-hard attitude, where people get their work done as well as enjoying themselves, in whatever form that may take. Some people who don’t drink alcohol (like myself) can feel nervous about the drinking culture at university, but I haven’t found it to be a big issue – no one pressures you to drink, and there are plenty of activities where alcohol isn’t playing a central role (for example, movie nights in the common room), so there’s nothing to worry about. The LGBTQ+ Soc at Oxford runs all sorts of events, one of the most enjoyable of which was the Women*’s and Non-Binary Pizza and Drinks Night – it was a great opportunity to meet new people from different colleges. There was also CAKE, which is “Oxford’s best women*’s and non-binary club night” held at Plush, which was one of the best night outs I’ve had. The LGBTQ+ Rep at Queen’s also held an event in the College bar before a night out in the last week of term, which was another really fun evening with friends.

Despite not being a very sporty person (having only done dance outside of school), I’ve taken up rowing. Since this is a sport most people do within their own college, it has been a great way to meet people from all years at Queen’s. I’ve also taken up some wellbeing responsibilities: I’m the Freshers’ Welfare Rep, and next term I am doing Peer Support training, which I’m really looking forward to. Everyone here is so welcoming, and there’s a great sense of community, so I hope you apply here and get to experience it for yourself!

Advice for applicants

If you want to apply for Biochemistry, you could read books and articles that talk about biological processes and evolution from a chemistry perspective, or genetics, or recent Nobel prize-winning advances such as Cryo-EM. If you are offered an interview here, the tutors aren’t looking for someone with a mountain of knowledge – they want someone who is passionate and can problem-solve, rather than someone who has memorised facts!