Amy – English
What do you like best about your course?
The best thing about the English course is that it’s not at all prescriptive – I can follow my own interests and write essays on whichever texts and topics I like. We come up with our own essay titles which makes writing a lot easier because I can focus on what I know rather than trying to fit a syllabus – no essay is too obscure!
How is your subject taught at Oxford?
In a normal week I write one essay and then have a tutorial discussing it, and usually we have a class or two covering broader material for the exams. In addition to tutorials and classes, there are plenty of lectures every day at the English Faculty by tutors from all the colleges, which really helps with learning contextual information that we might not come across in essay-specific tutorials. At the start of each new term we have collections – informal exams – to consolidate the previous eight week’s work.
What advice would you give potential applicants interested in studying your subject?
Find out what literature you enjoy the most and read around it as much as you can! Don’t feel obliged to pursue the most acclaimed stuff for the sake of it – but equally never stop digging for new things that interest you. Even if you have specific literary interests, it’s probably a good idea to try and get an overview of literature through history too – the English course covers writing from the 7th Century to the present day which puts texts from all ages into perspective.
What is life like as a student here?
Academic work will always be a big part of student life at Oxford, but it isn’t isolating because everyone is in the same boat – and working hard just makes me appreciate the weekend more! One of the things I love most about Oxford is how passionate people are about their subjects; I never cease to appreciate being surrounded by people who challenge the way I think, and I hope I learn a lot just by talking to others about their work. Although life as a student here does centre on studying, we are encouraged to find a healthy balance between work and relaxation, and I always have plenty of time to spend with friends.
What sort of extra-curricular activities are you involved in at Oxford?
I started writing theatre reviews in my first year for the University newspaper, The Cherwell, and last term became an editor of the Profile section of another student paper, The Oxford Student. This term I took over the Stage and Screen section which involves organising reviews of student drama and performances at the local theatres, and editing work before the weekly print. I am also a Student Ambassador for Teddy Hall, working with the outreach programme to encourage a more diverse range of applicants to apply to the college: helping out at Open Days and during the admissions process is good fun and very rewarding! There are opportunities at Oxford to pursue any interest you might have – as well as journalism and outreach I have tried my hand inexpertly at coxing for the College Boat Club, and this Summer I also got involved with the production of a musical at The Queen’s College. Whatever you enjoy, there will be likeminded people here to share it with – and I have even known students to set up their own societies if there are gaps in the extra-curricular market!