I was always good at languages at school. Yet, I never really considered studying them at any higher level. What’s the fun in spending years learning how to conjugate verbs? It was only when I was sent on an academic residential trip to Cambridge that I learned that the study of Modern Languages is so much more than translation and grammar. Inspired by the books and plays I was exposed to on this trip, I began looking at university courses that offered this same richly literature-focussed study of languages. Oxford is, of course, one of the leading institutions in the country (and even the world!) for this kind of study – so I soon set my sights, rather terrifyingly, on applying here.
Coming from a state comprehensive school, most of my teachers knew very little about the Oxford application process, and they certainly didn’t have any magic insight into how to ace interviews. What they did always tell me, though, was that as long as you’re passionate and willing to learn, that will shine through. This is the same advice I would now give to anyone wanting to apply. Tutors will never expect that you know everything already – they’d be out of the job if you did! What they do want is students who are open-minded, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about learning. This is not to say that you should go into your interview completely unprepared. Reading around your subject and having a good basic knowledge of relevant concepts are invaluable assets, but don’t be disheartened if a text given to you seems baffling. Take it step by step, speak your mind, and as best you can, try to enjoy the experience. Speaking face-to-face with some of the world’s leading researchers in your chosen area of study really is a privilege, and it is what makes Oxford’s famed tutorial system so unique.
On the open day at Exeter College, I was struck by how welcoming everyone was, as well as how diverse the student community was. Everyone in Oxford claims that their College is the friendliest, the prettiest, and the best – but for Exeter, this really is true. The events held have been so wide-ranging, from karaoke and charity cocktail nights in the bar to guest speakers such as the BBC’s Reeta Chakrabarti and the renowned author Phillip Pullman (both Exeter alumni), there really is something for everyone.
One of my favourite memories of first year was competing in the inter-collegiate drama cuppers. We got to put on a short play at the Burton Taylor Studio, and it was a great opportunity to meet a group of really kind and funny students. It’s a huge plus that the College is reasonably small, as it makes for an incredibly tight-knit community. Whether you’re a fresher or a graduate, you’ll always get a smile and a wave across the quad from students or tutors. Naturally, having the best view of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford from our Fellows’ Garden is a huge plus too…
I truly feel I have grown as a person both academically and socially during my time here so far. If you’re thinking about applying to Oxford, even a tiny bit, go for it! If you’re considering Exeter – doubly go for it!