Hi everyone – I’m Holly Morris and I’m a first year at St Hugh’s College studying English Literature and Language. I’m a proud Mancunian and I’ve loved my first year at Oxford.
So, first and foremost: what is the course like? The greatest joy of studying English at Oxford (and if I’m honest a surprising joy) has been the degree to which the student is allowed to guide their own study. Just because you don’t get to choose modules like you would at other universities doesn’t mean you get prescribed texts like you’re still in secondary school. Within the time period you are studying, you are encouraged to envelope yourself within a variety of literature over the term, uncovering aspects you fall in love with and exploring them in your essays. Believe me, if you told me over my A-Level summer that I’d be interested in T S Eliot’s use of historical intertextuality in his poetry I’d probably have laughed, yet one year on here we are! I think that is the best aspect of my degree, writing on topics I’m interested in and then receiving regular, specialist feedback.
So how does a day go for a typical Oxford student? My alarm is normally set in accordance with classes and my to-do list (and sometimes dependent on the activities of the night before), but one of the things that I love about English is that apart from about five or so hours a week of College classes, and then English Faculty lectures you choose to go to, you can work around your own timetable. After breakfast and a big cup of tea, and maybe a yoga session if I have the energy, it’s time to begin the day. Often my daylight hours will be a combination of seminars, tutorials, essay writing – and lots and lots of reading!
However, there is always time for the 3pm coffee run. I love living in Oxford. Coming from such a large city, I like how Oxford is both lively and bustling, whilst also not being overwhelming. My college happens to be a little further out than most but trust me there’s nothing better than walking with your friends down to Taylor’s cafe for a coffee and panini on a study break! There are so many cute independent shops, so many aesthetic streets, ready to be photographed, and the cycle lanes mean that almost everything is only 15 minutes away. I was a tad worried about moving so far from home, but honestly if you can handle the extortionate pint prices it’s a beautiful place that is always exciting and full of activity.
Some days in the afternoon there are also extra-curriculars and English can be a great gateway into other aspects of Oxford life. Through my degree I have been able to be parts of projects with the English Faculty for International Women’s Day, talking to some incredible English post-graduates, and been able to act as an undergraduate representative for the English Faculty’s Equality and Diversity Committee. I fear that there is a myth that as soon a one shows up to Oxford that they sell their soul to their degree, and it is simply not true! Whilst Covid has depleted our chance for extracurriculars, I have a passion for sport and have started in my college netball team and have reached out to my college’s drama society to become involved when theatres open again. The Student Union has also released many online debates in the evenings discussing relevant political issues with field experts and they are a great way to learn in a way which is completely divorced from your degree, and it’s great for you and a friend to watch over dinner.
In the evenings, Covid rules have meant that hallmarks of Oxford night life such as bops, clubs and sports socials have been unavailable, but I can’t wait for these to begin again! In the meantime, it’s been a lot of evenings round the kitchen table, laughing with my household – which is still great.
I always wanted to study English at Oxford, even though my state grammar school only had a handful of Oxbridge applicants a year. I showed up having literally never heard of some of the ‘famous’ private schools, but after a matter of hours none of that mattered. There is definitely an Oxford stereotype (and it does hold some weight, I’ve met a few of them) but it would be such a mistake to believe that is the only kind of person who can apply and thrive at Oxford. There are people in my college from all over the country, from all over the world, with interests from journalism to rowing, environmentalism to entertainment.
I think that is the how I would define both my degree and my entire experience at Oxford: opportunity. There is the opportunity to study what you want and engage in any interests with a host of interesting and diverse people.