Hi, my name’s Grace. I’m a first-year Classics and English student, proudly from Greater Manchester.
So far what I love best about my degree is how surprisingly accommodating it has been for someone who has not had the privileges others have had, such as access to more traditionally exclusive subjects like Latin or Greek. Consequently, I do Course II, whereby I do a four-year course with ‘Year 0’ focusing on getting you up to A-level standard in your chosen classical language (I chose Latin as I already knew the alphabet for that one). This consists of having hour-long language lessons at the Faculty five days a week alongside completing your weekly essay (don’t worry: you get to do the texts in translation if Greek/Latin isn’t your chosen language). If you already come with the language, you can choose to do the three-year course where your work will be divided between Classics and English, the latter half I have yet to experience. When I do, I’m looking forward to the comparison papers best.
I have had further academic support from my college, where staff consistently check up on my wellbeing and progress. I cannot stress how lovely the tutors are, which was something I was terrified about: I thought I would be sat in a room having to read out my essay to an old-fashioned, mean professor. The tutors are supportive and understanding, often validating my need to prioritise my mental health in certain situations. I remember one tutor telling me, “If you have to choose between an essay and language work, do the language work. If you have to choose between language work and sleep, choose sleep.” The support network at Corpus was such a nice surprise to fall into, from college parents (each fresher is matched with a pair of second-year students), to the staff and student welfare team, to the JCR (the undergraduate student body) and the porters. There is always someone you can ask for help and they’ll give it with a smile.
Another thing I was terrified about was bullying or exclusion because of my class. I almost didn’t go because of it, my own prejudice and fear of it holding me back. If you’re working-class and reading this, let me tell you: you’re not going to be the only one. Many colleges have link areas where they aim to get students from more potentially disadvantaged areas. It was such a great surprise to find so many people who were essentially local to my area at my college, but it’s also amazing to bond with people who have had different experiences. I myself have not experienced any classism since coming to Oxford. That’s not to say it doesn’t go on, but most people have the basic decency not to judge you for your background, so I wouldn’t say it’s something to worry about.
One more myth I would like to vanquish is the terrifying workload. What Oxford expects of you is something different, not superhuman. The language work is regular and manageable, along with the weekly essays, whereby you get a reading list with a variety of essays and chapters to read along with a question to answer on that term’s focus, such as epic or contexts. Then you will have tutorial with a tutor and around three other students in your year to discuss the topic for an hour. Language students also get set reading and go through those passages with a tutor. It is a lot, but most importantly it is manageable with plenty of time for recreational activity.
College bops (parties), formal dinners, nights out, various societies… There is so much to do in Oxford it’ll serve as motivation to keep on top of your work so you can go out. If you need a break due to stressful circumstances, tutors won’t expect you to put on a stiff upper lip simply because you’re an Oxford student. Both in Michaelmas and Hilary terms (the first two terms of the academic year), I had situations where I had to go back home for a few days and so could not complete my work. I was not berated or made to feel guilty. My need to prioritise my mental health was validated and my tutors’ only concerns were my wellbeing.
In summary, I have been supported academically, economically and emotionally in an absolutely brilliant environment that I once had so many fears about. I don’t think I would be happier anywhere else and I’m so glad I came here. If you have any questions about student life, interviews or the course, I’m more than happy to answer them honestly and with as much information as I can.