I always wanted to apply to one of the Oxbridge universities as they are revered back in Bangladesh and are considered to be academically challenging. I was very interested in biochemistry, so it made sense to apply to Oxford, where I could start specifically with biochemistry from Year 1. Initially, I did not apply to Exeter College. Being an international student, who had never visited Oxford, I did not know much about the colleges individually. When I applied to Trinity, it was entirely based on the fact that the name sounded familiar and that I did not want to make an Open Application. I was offered a place there, but when my application for the Reach Oxford Scholarship was accepted, I transferred to Exeter, which was participating in the scheme.
Looking back, I’d say there is nowhere I’d rather be. Exeter is by no means the biggest or grandest College, but it has a tight-knit community of around 350 undergraduates. It’s one big family where we all know each other. Starting during the pandemic, my time here has been different from what I imagined before applying. However, everyone at Exeter is keen to socialise and very quick to help anyone who needs it. The College has kept an excellent range of activities running in line with the pandemic guidelines, ranging from virtual Boat Club circuits, occasional virtual music nights to big takeaway dinners on celebrations such as Diwali. One of my favourite memories from Michaelmas term was sipping mulled wine with my friends as the Exeter College Choir sang carols in the front quad for Oxmas (Christmas in Oxford comes a month early!).
I attended an online interview as I did not have a UK visa at the time and initially felt quite daunted by how it would go, even more so when they brought an agar gel and an egg into the room! However, the interview really isn’t as terrifying as it seems before you attend it. The interviewer (likely a tutor at the College where you’re interviewing) will always guide you through the questions. My advice would be to not stress out during the interview if you get a question wrong. It is natural, and everyone who has an interview gets more than one wrong; it does not matter. The best way to go through it is to take your time to absorb the information the interviewers are giving you when asking the question. Walk them through your thoughts on using that information to try and approach your answer even if your answer is not the correct one.
In terms of studying in Exeter, there is definitely a large workload for every subject, but I think it is possible to balance academic study and a lively social life. The tutorial system is a great opportunity to discuss things from challenging lectures in more detail and in a more relaxed environment. I have found my tutors very supportive and understanding; if I cannot meet a deadline for a good reason, they know to prioritise our mental and physical wellbeing above everything else.
For anyone considering applying to Oxford, my advice to enjoy your time here is to make sure that you are truly interested in the degree you’re about to undertake because you will be spending a lot of time doing just that. It will be rigorous, but once you’re here, do take the time to enjoy the non-academic side of Exeter and its people as well. Lastly, make sure that passion comes through in your application and your interview.