Erica – Earth Sciences
Journey to Oxford
I’m Erica, and I’m a loud and proud Northerner. I’m from a place called Bolton (or just near Manchester if you don’t know where that is). You can definitely pick my voice out from a crowd, put it that way. I went to a state school, which is not too shocking or out of place here.
Why did you choose to study your course?
I chose Earth Science mainly because I love volcanoes and everything about them. I think they’re really fascinating, especially the way they’re both sources of creation and destruction. I also love problem solving, and there’s a lot of things where we can use information from volcanoes to apply to problems.
What is your favourite thing about studying Earth Sciences?
My favourite thing about Earth Science though is how interconnected it is. You can’t talk about volcanic processes without talking about evolution, and you can’t think about life’s history before considering the iron and oxygen concentrations of a planet. Every part of science is interlinked, and all of them are fundamental. I think it’s quite a beautiful quality of the subject, and it makes putting up with the stereotype that we all want to lick rocks worthwhile.
How is your course taught?
Earth Science is broken into two sides when it comes to contact hours: lectures and tutorials. The lectures are fun and varied in content to keep you constantly engaged. That’s supplemented by the tutorials, which I currently have twice a week. One tutorial I have is maths, mainly to give me the chance to ask any questions about maths topics we need. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The other tutorial is based on content from the week, either expanding on lecture material or talking about topics coming up soon. They’re really fun, and it’s great being able to talk to your peers and experts in the field about a topic.
Describe your average Oxford day…
My day is, at most, 9am till 1pm with lectures. Twice a week, I have an hour long afternoon tutorial with the rest of the day free for me to cover work how I like. It gives me the freedom to structure my work around deadlines and social activities, which mostly consist of meeting up with people across Oxford for catch up chats. It also lets me have days where I’m work-focused and days where I’m relaxed and can catch up on other tasks, like doing laundry.
The workload varies based on how difficult I find the deadline and how much I want to go over topics from lectures and process the information. Some weeks are heavier than others, but I still find time to go out and I always go into Hall to eat meals with my friends and get away from work for the evening.
Why did you decide to apply to St Edmund Hall? What is your favourite thing about it now you’re here?
For my course, there aren’t many colleges that offer it so Teddy Hall (St Edmund Hall’s nickname) is one of a few I could apply to. Out of those that do offer Earth Science, there were a couple of things that sold it, the first reason was that it had the most places available out of the others on the course. I thought I’d have the best chance to speak to people between lectures and tutorials about the content and to work through problems together.
The second reason was the size of the college. Overall Teddy Hall isn’t a massive place, and it’s not one of the many huge limestone buildings you’ll see everywhere. But it does have a large student body and there’s a welcoming atmosphere that permeates throughout the Hall community. I’m glad I came to Teddy Hall because of the people here. This college has a strong, lively and loving spirit that links every part of college life together in a supportive network. The people make the place special, and that’s abundantly clear in Teddy Hall.
What helped you prepare for the admissions process?
I found it helped to think regularly about my subject, even just reading an article. It made me think about something every day and kept me searching for answers. When it came to my interview, it helped to go in not knowing what to expect but knowing how to approach a problem. Being able to navigate myself to an answer was similar to how I’d look for articles to read to answer the questions I’d had before. Along with that, it helped to speak to my teachers at college about how to stay calm. It helped to talk through my worries with someone who knew what the process was like, even if they hadn’t been through it themselves.
What was the biggest misconception you had about studying at Oxford before you came?
Other than the thought I’d be out of place here because I didn’t go to a grammar or private school, or because I’m a northerner, it was the fact that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with everything. Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks are a step up. Going from a work-free summer to a new type of working at Oxford can be difficult to adjust to but you find your feet in the subject and everything falls into place, letting you balance your workload.
What would you tell your 17-year-old self about applying to and studying at Oxford/St Edmund Hall now?
I know you’re stressed, and you’re wondering if it’s worth trying, or if you’d stand a chance, but trust me. You’ll regret not trying, and you’ll never stop wondering if you could have done it. You’ll be fine. You’re allowed to be worried about getting into Oxford but you’re also allowed to take a break and spend time on something else for yourself. Even if it doesn’t go how you want, you’ll still have the time of your life studying the subject you love.