Spotlight on: Oxford – my journey so far

Catrin Williams, a first year Human Sciences student at Magdalen College, tells us all about how she’s enjoying Oxford so far:

“After getting my offer, I was initially terrified of the amount of work at Oxford and thought it would be too much for me to handle.

“Three essays a fortnight the same length as my GCSE history course work (which took me weeks!) seemed completely overwhelming.

“However, whilst I do spend more time working than my friends at other universities, it’s (currently) completely manageable.

“In fact, I think coming from a state school has given me a big advantage when it comes to adjusting to the workload; I’m far more used to managing my own time, and I’m more used to working things out for myself.

“My first week of lectures was quite overwhelming: lectures are much faster paced than school lessons, and it feels like you’re completely left behind, until the person next to you asks if you have any idea what’s going on!

“However, I’ve found that the reading I have to do for essays really helps me understand the subject, and so far, where my essays have overlapped with lectures, I’ve found that lectures make so much more sense afterwards.

“Since the first few weeks I’ve really settled in, and even find myself getting excited when I’m set an interesting essay to research!

Oxford part two

“Oxford is quite unique (other than Cambridge!) as it has a tutorial system, where you meet your tutors in groups of about two to discuss topics in more detail.

“You are set work before hand, submit it so they can mark it in advance, and then discuss it in the tutorial.

“I really enjoy tutorials, as you can just enjoy knowing all of the things you’ve spent hours trying to know, by discussing it with your tutor, and trialling out wacky theories you thought about but weren’t brave enough to put on paper.

“It helps that all my tutors are lovely; my genetics tutor is Australian, wears Star Wars t-shirts with shorts, even when it’s freezing, and is a huge fan of casual swearing (although in our first tutorial he said if we had an issue with it just to tell him and he’d stop).

“Oxford is also has many traditions, such as matriculation, which involves you dressing up like an idiot (some say we look like penguins, and I can see the resemblance), trekking over to the Sheldonian Theatre in the rain whilst getting soaked because of the ‘no umbrella’ rule, and having your picture taken by random tourists, only to arrive and discover other colleges all have umbrellas and therefore it’s only you with your hair plastered across your face.

“I find it easier just to go with it all, accept that it’s ridiculous, but you’re part of all the ridiculousness now and that’s pretty cool (of course there’s always some who take it all very seriously and think that the fact that everything is conducted in Latin is glorious rather than a little bit pretentious).

Oxford part two (2)

“I’ve joined the college orchestra (despite not playing in over a year) and the college mixed lacrosse team (despite never playing before), and they’re all so relaxed and low-key.

“No one on the lacrosse team has ever played before, so it’s more like hockey with the amount of time the ball spends on the floor, but it just makes it hilarious.

“For anyone who can actually do things, there are university level teams, which come with pretty cool perks, like kit and VIP club tickets.

“I don’t enjoy drinking, or going out clubbing, and was really worried I’d struggle to socialise, but I’ve made an amazing group of friends.

“We drink tea and eat biscuits in the evenings, whilst watching university challenge and the Great British Bake Off, and then, those who want to, go out to the club, and I just go to bed, and absolutely no one cares which you do – there’s no pressure at all either way.

“You have nothing to lose by applying, and so much to gain if you’re successful.”

If you’re interested in a taster of life at Oxford yourself, including staying in an Oxford college and being taught by Oxford professors, why not apply to our annual Jesus College Summer School?

Applications for the Seren Jesus College Summer School are now open and found here: https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/form/seren-summer-school

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