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.