Day in the Life of an Oxford Archaeology and History Student

18 Dec, 2023 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge, Humanities Articles

Hi, I’m Jen, a finalist student of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Oxford. In my degree, I study the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans through the material objects they left behind. This includes many things from huge buildings like temples and amphitheatres, to more personal objects like jewellery.

On hearing that I study archaeology, people often imagine that I spend my days somewhere hot and dry, carefully brushing sand off some ancient artefact, or running from a huge boulder Indiana Jones style – I wish! In reality, my routine is near-identical to many other humanities students here at Oxford.

Here’s how a typical Monday has been for me this term – with a healthy dose of Dolly Parton!

Tumble Out of Bed and Stumble to the Kitchen

This year I’m living with five of my friends in a house on Cowley Road, which is slightly farther from where my lectures and classes take place than I’m used to – last year I lived in my college’s accommodation in the city centre. I like to rise early in order to get into town and get started, so I get up at around 6am.

Usually I try to do something quick for breakfast that I know will keep me awake through my lectures, but I’m running late this morning (that snooze button was way too tempting!) so I’ve decided to eat at college.

There are several ways to travel around Oxford. The streets are very well kitted out with cycle lanes and bike racks, making a bike a popular choice for many students. Public transport is another convenient option, with a huge number of bus routes available.

My bike is sadly broken, but I prefer to walk to college anyway. My route allows me to cut through the University Parks, and I always try to get some time in nature every day!

Workin’ 9 to 5


When I first came to university, I was especially nervous about lectures, having never had them before. I was worried that they would be my only teaching hours – what if I needed extra help? What if the lecturer spoke too fast and I missed information? What if I was falling behind?

In reality, the University of Oxford employs a number of teaching methods for all courses. For my degree, I get lectures (large groups of students with one uninterrupted tutor), classes (smaller groups of students in discussion with one or more tutors) and tutorials (discussions with one tutor either individually or with one to two other students).

This means that there are multiple opportunities to ask specific questions (indeed, even in lectures there’s time made for questions) and catch up on anything missed. In addition, many, many Oxford lectures are recorded and made available to the relevant students, so there was in fact no need to worry about missing anything!

My first lecture today is at midday. It’s actually a double – lasting two hours – but our lecturer has split it into two with a lunch break in between. This term, I’ve had on average five lectures, one class and one tutorial a week, making for a total of eight hours tuition.


I usually pack myself food to take in with me on busy days like these, but today I’ve arranged to meet my friend for lunch. We go to Sasi’s Thai in Oxford’s Covered Market. I’m a vegetarian so I got a plate of Pad Thai and we managed to squeeze ourselves in – it’s incredibly popular at lunchtime!

There are so many places in Oxford where you can grab a bite – apart from the absolute staple that is the Tesco meal deal, I recommend a bagel at G&Ds or a panini at White Rabbit.


After my second lecture, it’s time to head back to the library – Oxford has dozens to choose from. This morning I was at Keble, so this afternoon I picked the top floor of the Rad Cam (otherwise known as the Radcliffe Camera).

Most of the libraries in Oxford allow students to walk in, so long as they have a working Bod Card. Each one has a different vibe – the Rad Cam is renowned for its beauty, but did you know it also boasts access to the Gladstone Link (affectionately known as the Glink), the not-so-secret underground tunnel linking it to the Old Bod, which makes you feel like you’re in a spy movie?

One of my favourites this term has been the Philosophy and Theology Faculties library, a little farther out of town, as they have the perfect amount of heating for this weather!

Of course, libraries aren’t the only study spots in Oxford – see here for some of the best non-library study spots! On top of this list, most faculties also offer common room spaces where you can work, eat and socialise (sometimes all at once!). My favourite is, of course, the common room at the Institute of Archaeology.

I did dissertation work this morning, so this afternoon I’m starting my reading (AKA research) for the paper in Saint Augustine I’m taking this term, as I have an essay due on Wednesday.

The University of Oxford's Radcliffe Camera

The Tide’s Gonna Turn and It’s All Gonna Roll You Away

After a couple of hours, I’m burned out, so I decide to stop. It has taken me several years to reach the point where not only can I recognise when I need to put the work down, but I can also accept that I’ll never physically be able to do everything that I want to in one day! I got there by using techniques of self-reflection, and you can too!

I’m a sucker for all things Christmas, so my treat this evening is a trip to Oxford’s Christmas Market, before heading home to enjoy dinner cooked up by one of my housemates.

Every day is different when you’re at university – it’s not the same old routine, day in and day out like when you’re at school! For instance, on Tuesdays I have no scheduled lectures or classes, so I usually spend all day at home working on my laptop and doing my share of the household chores.

If you’re interested in attending an Oxford Scholastica Academy’s summer course, you can glimpse an insight into a typical week at our summer school.


By Jen Protheroe

Jen is a finalist studying Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Oxford. Outside of work, Jen enjoys spending time in nature and is a strong advocate for the mental health benefits of this – although she does like to soundtrack her peaceful, scenic routes with punk, rock and metal music mixes.

Explore Oxford this summer!

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