Anjali – Chemistry

Journey to Oxford

I come from North London, and I have been state-school educated since primary school. I decided to move from a sixth-form to an FE college and that’s where I really got more exposure to the application process for Oxbridge. My college was partnered with Christ Church college at Oxford University, so I had the opportunity to come to Oxford during my A-Levels for a few talks and workshops. That’s when I really became serious about researching Oxford as a future place of study, and eventually applying!

Why did you choose to study your course?

Initially, I wanted to do Medicine (my A-Levels were Maths, Chemistry, and Biology so I really had one option in mind when I started). However, I managed to secure some work experience at a hospital nearby (through networking and asking anyone who would be willing to set up some work experience for me!) and subsequently decided that the hospital environment just was not what I enjoyed. After that, I decided to take a look at my A-Levels and decided I enjoyed Chemistry the most of the three. My college helped me get some work experience in a lab (I believe they partnered with UCL for this) and out of the two work experiences, I just preferred the lab work. Once I decided I wanted to apply for Chemistry I basically just began doing further research (through listening to podcasts, reading recommended books etc.)

What is your favourite thing about studying Chemistry?

Some of the other chemists will agree with me on this, but labs are no longer my favourite thing about the course (we spend 12 hours per week in the labs for first/second year)! My favourite thing about Chemistry is that as a problem-sheet (rather than essay) based subject it is rewarding and actually quite satisfying to work through the problems (providing I get the answers right!) and to understand each topic in detail, even when it’s challenging.

Overall though, I would say that the best thing to come out of my course is that I get to meet a lot of people from other colleges because of the large amount of contact hours we spend together!

How is your course taught?

My course has a lot of contact hours. For the first 3 years, the general structure of each week is about the same:

About 10 hours of lectures per week (2 lectures every morning).

Usually 1-2 tutorials per week (these last between 1 and 3 hours for Chemists).

12 hours of laboratory work per week (split over 2 days).

Then we complete our tutorial and post-lab work in our own time.

This is definitely a huge step up from A-Levels, which took some time to get used to. I stepped up my time-management to ensure that I could complete the work, and still have time for extra-curricular and social activities.

Describe your average Oxford day…

Before and after COVID (my first and third years), I start the day with breakfast down in the Hall (they have vegan croissants!).

I’ll then walk to the department for lectures (or watch them online depending on how I feel), usually from 9-11am.

Then, if I have a lab I’ll walk over to the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory at 11am. Usually, I’m in the lab from 11am-5pm, but sometimes we finish early.

After this, I’ll usually just walk back to college and get ready for dinner in the Hall at 6pm.

After dinner, either I’ll continue with a little bit of work, or I’ll go to the gym or one of the free yoga classes that happen at Teddy Hall.

On non-lab days I definitely have more time to myself for things like the gym or doing outreach work with schools- I help run our college Instagram too! I might also attend other society talks and socials, such as the Oxford Women in Business Society!

Why did you decide to apply to St Edmund Hall? What is your favourite thing about it now you’re here?

I actually did an open application (I hadn’t done a lot of research on the different colleges and didn’t really understand how they worked at the time) and got allocated to Teddy Hall.

Now that I’m here, my favourite thing about Teddy Hall is, as everyone says, the community that is created by the students. There’s always something to get involved in!

What helped you prepare for the admissions process?

My sixth-form college was quite helpful with interview prep, and I got to do a couple of mock interviews with two of the chemistry teachers to help me prepare. They also set up some workshops to talk us through the admissions papers which was helpful too.

Personally, for interviews I just made sure I knew what I’d learnt so far in my A-Level course inside-out, as the interviewers tend to focus on academic questions rather than personal or extracurricular questions. This helped me out a lot as all of the questions I got at interviews built on concepts I was familiar with from A-Levels.

What was the biggest misconception you had about studying at Oxford before you came?

That I wouldn’t fit in here – I thought Oxford was for one type of person from one kind of background. In all honesty, it’s easy to feel like you don’t deserve your place here (and sometimes I still do feel this way!) but personally, I quickly found a great group of friends who made me feel comfortable and confident!

What would you tell your 17-year-old self about applying to and studying at Oxford/St Edmund Hall now?

I would tell myself to make sure I enjoy the first year, and join more clubs and societies. With the workload it was easy to just work for ridiculous hours trying to get all the answers right, but this is not sustainable or enjoyable when Oxford has so much more to offer!

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