English: a student's view

Above, Francesca, one of our Christ Church Undergraduate Ambassadors, answering the big questions on:
-Choosing to study English
-Studying at the University of Oxford
-College life.

Below, Bryony, another of our Christ Church Undergraduate Ambassadors, writes about studying English at Christ Church:

Bryony one of our Christ Church Undergraduate AmbassadorsHi, I’m Bryony and I’m currently in my first year studying English Language and Literature at Christ Church. I have always loved to read, to watch plays, to listen to poetry and I felt that Oxford was the best place for me to continue my exploration of literature - the next natural step! The contrast between my home town and Oxford, created by the splendour and rich history of the university, was initially intimidating. However, through frequent visits, help from my teachers and a lot of research, I quickly became more confident in my decision to apply. Attending the UNIQ summer school consolidated this for me; no matter where you come from, if you have the ability (or, as I call it, the ‘Ox-factor’!) then nothing should prevent you from applying.

The tutors here know what to look for in applicants and will get the best out of you in interviews, meaning that you shouldn’t be worried about which college you are interviewed at. Before submitting my application, I was rather overwhelmed by the sheer number of colleges and I didn’t actually apply to Christ Church - but I did secretly regret it at the time! I needn’t have worried though. As fate would have it, I was called here for interview and offered a place! It really is such a beautiful place to live in, and of course there’s all the magic of the Alice-in-Wonderland and Harry Potter associations. Aside from that grandeur though, Christ Church is a friendly, diverse and vibrant community, suitable for people from every background with all sorts of interests and aspirations.

The course here, for me so far, has proven exciting, challenging and inspiring. I leave lectures and tutorials eager to read more; be it an entirely new text or an author I’m already familiar with but ready to be appreciated in a fresh literary light. That is what is so enriching about the English course at Oxford – unlike what may have been the case at A-Level, you are not taught WHAT to think but HOW to think, meaning that the possible angles from which to approach a text are endless.... and so somewhat dizzying! None of this is intimidating though (at least after the first week!), as the academic community that has welcomed me here at Christ Church is incredibly supportive. Discussing poetry with a world-expert is a fruitful, rather than a terrifying, experience. To have such intelligent academics listen to and consider your views whilst pushing you higher and more sophisticated levels of literary analysis, is something you really can’t put a price on! My tutors have encouraged me and the other students at my college to discover our own literary tastes and develop our own writing styles within the structure of the course. This freedom is enabled through frequent choice in essay questions and selection of writers that we wish to study and discuss for tutorials.

It is hard to describe a ‘typical’ day as arts students have a less structured timetable than scientists. As well as weekly compulsory lectures however, there is a lot of contact time provided by the tutors at Christ Church. In the first term I had one essay and one tutorial a week with roughly two other classes. This term I now write an Old English essay on top of the Victorian or Modern essay I’ve been set. Fortnightly I attend a close-reading class with my poetry tutor in which I discuss, with a few fellow students, a single poem in such unbelievable depth – a highly rewarding exercise. In addition, a chance to reflect upon the week’s lectures is offered by lively group discussions overseen by another tutor.

Alongside this wealth of academic opportunity are the innumerable hobbies to be pursued during your time at Oxford. Since the beginning of the year I have been rowing for the Christ Church women’s team (I started as a novice) and I have found the structure of training, the camaraderie of the club and the thrill of racing all very complimentary to my studies. In my first term, I also took part in the inter-collegiate theatre competition for freshers called Cuppers– a theatrical spring-board allowing even those with little or no acting experience to write and perform an original piece of drama. Next year I look forward to participating in an extra-curricular activity more associated with writing - perhaps involving myself in one of the student newspapers, or giving playwriting a shot. Either way, there will be no shortage of options! I’m excited to put the skills I have gained in the past year into creative practise beyond my academic work.