A Day in the Life of an Oxford Fresher
Whether you’re still deciding if you’d like to apply to Oxford University, or you’ve got your place and will be arriving soon enough, it’s very reasonable to find out early what the daily schedule of an Oxford student looks like.
Given Oxford’s unique routines and hefty workload, you might rightly assume that the daily life of a university student is very different in Oxford, but there’s still plenty of time to recharge and take part in some social events.
I’m Ali; I’m a first year student, and I study English Language and Literature at St Hugh’s College, one of the 36 colleges that make up the University of Oxford. I hope this article can answer some of the questions you might have about the day in the life of an Oxford fresher.
Everyone has a different experience here, of course: everyone works best at different hours and relaxes with different activities, not to mention the added routines you might have as an international student! So my experience isn’t universal, but hopefully it gives you an initial sense of what your life at Oxford University could look like.
How a Day Begins
The day begins bright and early. English lectures at Oxford are some of the earliest, and they usually start from 9am or 10am – sometimes 11am if you’re lucky! Colleges tend to serve breakfast between 8am and 9am, so I usually don’t have the time to eat. My friends and I sometimes munch on some fruit on our way to lectures.
The early lectures are especially annoying if your college accommodation is far from the English Faculty, as it is in my case (there’s a 22-minute walk from my room to the lecture halls), but many colleges are fortunately quite close. St Catherine’s and Magdalen College are right at its doorstep, for example.
Faculty lectures tend to end around 12pm or 1pm, just in time for lunch.
Post-Lectures Afternoon and Lunch
Most students, including myself, tend to eat lunch immediately after the morning lectures finish. Colleges serve lunch between 12:30pm and 1pm, so we tend to go straight back to our college dining hall if lectures finish in time. If lectures end later, we tend to buy our lunch from the wide variety of shops or cafés on the High Street five minutes away from the English Faculty.
On a weekday, I’m usually back in college around 1pm after lectures and lunch. This is where the day differs for each individual undergraduate student. English at Oxford is taught via:
- Lectures, which aren’t compulsory and happen every day
- Classes, which are compulsory and happen once or twice a week
- Tutorials, which are the same as classes, but occur once every two weeks
Each Oxford student has a personal timetable. For example, during Michaelmas term, I have a class every Monday and Wednesday, as well as tutorials on Friday, but the hours and days change with each term.
I attend any classes or tutorials I have on the day, and then the day is mine to spend how I’d like – although most of it is spent getting books from the library and writing essays.
That’s Oxford’s workload, but that’s not to say that Oxford students have no social life, because they most certainly do!
The Social Side of Oxford
Oxford is a small city, and you could probably walk from one end to another in just over half an hour. Despite its size, there are still an amazing number of venues for relaxing, studying or entertainment.
My go-to spots to study on any given day are, I think, the English Faculty library, our college’s own library, or certain cafés like Pret and Costa – with tables (and charging ports!) outside.
What is there to do in Oxford besides the work?
The University of Oxford has over 400 different student societies, opportunities for volunteering, and paid internships during the holidays between terms.
I’m part of the inter-college Turkish Society (there’s a society for almost every nationality or community here), the Oxford Advertising Society, the St Hugh’s based “The Swan” (our college newspaper, for which I sometimes write articles), and the St Hugh’s Film Club, which we as a small group of first-year students have set up together.
How Much Work Is There to Do in a Day?
Of course, there’s always a deadline to meet and an essay to write for either the classes or tutorials. Some students ignore lectures and work the best in the mornings in their own space, but I personally don’t work like that. I go to a studying environment (which definitely shouldn’t always be your room unless you want to burnout) after lunch and write my essays there until dinner, which my college serves from 6pm.
Essays are daunting, of course, but each of them tend to be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. It’s doing the reading and research for each of your essay arguments that takes the most time. It’s not that bad though, all things considered.
For me, the evening has the most precious hours of the day, because I don’t spend them working. Unless there’s something you urgently need to submit, there’s really no need to strain yourself working past the dark hours after 9pm or 10pm.
That’s been my philosophy so far as a first-year fresher anyway; hopefully it keeps up!
By Ali Sezgin
Ali is currently studying a BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and is particularly interested in Old English and Renaissance world literature. He has experience in school journalism, and enjoys writing articles and doing research.
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