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!
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!