For any prospective applicants to the History course at Oxford, here’s what life is like as a History student.
In this series, current and past students kindly recount their experiences and day-to-day life studying at university. Georgie shares her experiences as a student reading History at Oxford.
what's studying at oxford like?
As a History student with very few contact hours a week (no more than three, max), I know I have to stay disciplined to stay on top of my workload. It can be very easy when first starting as a fresher to leave the weekly essay to a few days before the deadline, and finish it in a mad rush of all-nighters in the library.
By the second and third terms though, you have usually learnt to manage pacing the reading a little better.
The Morning: Life As An Oxford History Student
The day starts forcing myself up at around 9.30am.
I have a quick breakfast and cup of tea in the kitchen, chatting to friends who live on my floor, then I cycle to the Rad Cam (the History Faculty Library – it’s actually called the Radcliffe Camera). Cycling through leafy Summertown, and past University Parks, I lock my bike up by the cobbles in Radcliffe Square. I weave through the crowds of tourists, maybe overhear some snippets from the tours about the history of the imposing All Soul’s College opposite, and swipe my Bod Card – the Library reader’s card – into the stunning dome building.
The library’s quite empty as most other students tend to be in lectures at this time (particularly the Science students!), so I choose one of the best seats on the mezzanine floor overlooking the upper gallery in the library. In preparation for my tutorial at 3pm – where I know I’m going to be quizzed on this week’s reading and the essay I handed in (within minutes of the deadline) the night before – I look up where I can find my set texts in the library and go on a hunt to find them.
After the mandatory ‘settling in’ period – rearranging my laptop, stationary, and water bottle into the perfect position at least seven times and giving evils to the guy opposite blasting some terrible tunes too loudly – I start powering through my reading, taking notes on my laptop of the key points.
I make sure to always know what I’m reading for, and the questions I have in my head, so that I don’t end up wasting my time reading irrelevant material. If I’ve had any lectures that week, I might take a look at the lecture notes and handout to see if it’s useful for the topic I’m researching. Usually though lectures are just introductory, so I have to go into the subject much deeper with my own independent reading.
I then make a couple of summaries of the authors’ arguments from what I’ve read – the paper I’m taking, the History of post-Reformation Political Thought is a text-based one – knowing my tutor will expect me to be able to tell her all about them.
At around 11.30am I head out for a coffee, meeting my friend outside in the Square, and we head to Jericho Coffee Traders (definitely the best café in Oxford!). After getting some stamps on our loyalty cards and sitting chatting for a bit about the work we’ve been doing, we head back to the library to finish off some more reading.
The Afternoon: Life As An Oxford History Student
At lunchtime, I meet my friend again and we head to the Covered Market to get some food – browsing all the many options from the independent traders as if we won’t revert to the usual haunt – Saisi’s Thai. Sufficiently full, I head back to the library to do the last bit of work before the tutorial.
At 3pm I head to Christ Church to meet my tutor, navigating my way through the stunning quads and into her spacious office. I sit next to my tutorial (‘tute’) partner, and we are given back our essays from this week.
Our tutor challenges us on some of the things we wrote, and we start to debate our interpretations of the arguments of the authors. My tutor asks some difficult questions, and after a taxing hour and a half of discussion, I cycle as quickly as I can back to College.
The Evening: Life As An Oxford History Student
Since I’ve got a whole week now until my next deadline, I’ve got time to relax a bit, so I meet my friends in the kitchen for a cup of tea. If I can muster the energy, I go to the library to check out my books for the next week’s reading, and maybe chat to some of my College course-mates about how their weekly essays are going.
At 6.30pm we head to ‘Hall’ (the canteen), where a tasty lasagna is being served. After dinner we all head to the College Bar – the ‘Entz’ (Entertainment) Reps are putting on a pub quiz.
What Are Your Top Tips For Studying History At Oxford?
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