Educational Advice

A Day in the Life of an English Student at Oxford

Ever wondered what it’s like at Oxford? Do students spend their time fine-dining or studying? Read on to find out…

One of the great things about being an English student is being able to have a lie-in.  The scientists will go mad: they will grumble and claim their daily 9am lectures mean they’re working harder than you, but the truth is, they’re jealous.  English students rarely have lectures or classes at 9am, so you’re able to have an extra hour in bed in the morning.  Trust me, when you’re a student, you’ll realise that it really is the little things that count.

After struggling out of bed, I might make some breakfast before checking my emails and walking down to the English Faculty for a lecture.  Lectures are mostly non-compulsory, so it’s up to you to find a lecture series that interests you and adds to your work.  It might be that you haven’t quite understood the point of all twelve books of Paradise Lost, or it might be that you’re really passionate about Shakespeare and so want to attend the series on women in Shakespeare.  Lectures are given to accompany tutorial and class work and so focus on the same topics as your term’s work, giving you extra background material for your weekly tutorial essays.  After this, I might walk back to college to finish off an essay due that afternoon by working in the library.  Each college has its own private library, which you can use alongside your subject faculty library and the Bodleian library.  It also has lots of desks for students to work at, with free WiFi and access to the books.  If you need a little extra concentration from that you can normally attain in your room, the library is the place to go for some hard-core work.

Normally, I have lunch in college served in the ‘buttery’, the canteen, and eaten next door in the college hall.  There are a variety of hot food options, including a vegetarian option, as well as sandwiches or wraps, fruit and of course, fantastic puddings.  Food is paid for on your university card, which you can top up online throughout the term.  Eating in hall is a great benefit, as it allows you to eat well and quickly if you don’t have the time to cook lunch every day.  It also makes eating a social occasion, as you can catch up with your friends in hall and sit with the rest of the college, chatting to students in the other years.

In the afternoon, I might have a tutorial or a class.  Classes are led by a tutor and attended by all the students studying your subject in the college (about 8, normally).  Students might have to prepare presentations on the assigned reading or arrive with notes ready to discuss the week’s texts or topic.   This is often accomplished with the assistance of tea and cake!  Sharing ideas with your peers really helps you to appreciate different ways of looking at a text, enabling you to learn in a creative environment, prompted to engage with key themes and issues by your tutor.  Tutorials are the teaching method that makes the Oxford education stand out: two students will spend an hour talking through their essays on a topic with a world-class academic in that field.  This is an unrivalled experience, as you are encouraged to up your game and argue with quite literally the ‘best of them’ – an added bonus being that they know many of the authors on your reading list by first name and often have an amusing anecdote to relate regarding them…

As it grows dark, I might leave the tutor’s room and return to my room to file away the notes taken that afternoon.  There might be time for a quick trip to the college library to return the previous week’s books and nab the essential ones from the new reading list before my classmates can, before meeting my friends in hall for evening dinner.  We might plan a pub trip for later on, or agree upon a film for the night or a time to catch up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones (students develop fairly broad TV tastes…)  This will leave us with time to get in a spot of work before relaxing for the evening with everyone – it is essential to get the work/play balance right.

The key to success as an arts student really is good time management: without the structured timetable of the scientists, it is easy to spend all morning assuring yourself that one more episode of How I Met Your Mother won’t affect your work plans for the day.  By keeping an eye on the time and planning your days, you will be able to enjoy all that Oxford has to offer, both academically and socially.  The flexibility of the day of an English student means that the onus is on you to work, but with yourself as your own boss, you can tailor your day to your needs and preferences.  For example, as I stagger into bed at the end of a long day, it is yet again a great relief that I don’t have that pesky 9am lecture…

Written by Laura Clash

By Laura ClashA MyTutorWeb Tutor

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