Today I have an interview with, Sara, who has recently started reading European and Middle Eastern Languages at Pembroke College. She spoke to me before she began her first term at Oxford:
1-Why did you decide to apply to Oxford in the first place?
I’ve always been in awe of its academic reputation and I have always dreamed of being able to study amongst some great scholars. It was also a major plus that Oxford’s French department is top in the UK. I attended an open day in September 2016 and I remember doubting myself the entire day – thinking about how they wouldn’t want someone like me to study there. After visiting Christ Church and talking with some students there I decided to go for it and see what would happen – after all I had nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.
2-What subject did you apply for?
European and Middle Eastern Languages (EMEL) – French and Arabic
3-What did you do to try to make your personal statement stand out?
I made it personal! I wanted to ensure that it really emphasised the passion that I have for languages and the reasons why I wanted to study them at Oxford. I talked a lot about what I had done in my own time outside of the classroom which then became topics of conversation in the interviews.
4-Can you give an insight into your interviews?
In total I had five interviews across five days. I applied directly to Pembroke College and had two interviews for Arabic and two for French there. I was also interviewed for Arabic at Mansfield College. In my Arabic interviews I was given a text/extract to read beforehand and then the initial discussion was based on the text. I was asked questions about the extract and the interviewers really pushed me to think - even sometimes on parts of the subject that I had little knowledge about. I think thirty minutes ish prior to my French interviews I was given a French poem which I then had to read, annotate, highlight etc and then in the interviews we went through each line and we talked about translating it and picking out the key points. In both interviews we spoke a little French (I think around 2 minutes) and they asked me about my job, my favourite book etc. I enjoyed the interview at Mansfield College as the interviewers were really receptive to what I was saying and I could see that they were enthusiastic about the subject which engaged me more. For this interview I was given an extract from the Quran and we dissected it, discussing how things can often be lost in translation.
5- How did you find the overall interview experience?
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the interviews as there are so many stories you hear about crazy things people have been asked to do in interviews. Overall, I think it was just an opportunity for not only the interviewers to see if you would be able to study the course at Oxford, but for you to decide if this was something that you could commit to. The interviews are more like informal chats and are much less scary than what you would think! As I was in Oxford for five days, it was a great opportunity to explore the city and what it had to offer and after that I did have my heart set on wanting to study there the following September.
6-Which college did you get into?
7-What are you most looking forward to about starting Oxford?
Being able to use the Bodleian! I’m a total bookworm and I can’t wait to study in there!
8- What are you nervous about?
I’m most nervous about the workload and being able to manage that with being away from home for the first time.
9- Any tips for future applicants?
I would say just go for it! I very nearly didn’t apply because I was scared to get rejected from such a prestigious university! I visited many colleges during the open day and it wasn’t until I had visited the last college, which happened to be Pembroke, that I really thought I could see myself there. If I hadn’t have taken the chance and applied, then I wouldn’t have been offered a place there!