St Benet’s Hall, more commonly referred to as ‘Benet’s’ by those who know and love it, is most certainly one of Oxford’s hidden gems.
When I was invited to interview at Benet’s for Philosophy and Theology over two years ago now, I had never even heard of it! Furthermore, after a quick google search I didn’t really know what to think…
First and foremost, Benet’s is a PPH. What on earth is a PPH I hear you ask? A PPH or ‘Permanent Private Hall’ is essentially a mini-college, and yeah, Benet’s is pretty small with about 20 people per year plus grads. Although, technically the difference between a PPH and a college is that PPH’s are governed by religious institutions rather than the actual uni itself. Benet’s is linked to the Benedictine community, and due to the fact that it is home to three monks meant that up until my year, (since they have now purchased another building a few minutes away where all the freshers would live), the undergraduate members college had all been male.
As a non-Catholic, relatively outgoing female I had no idea what to expect...
However, upon arrival I very very quickly fell in love with the place. The Benet’s ethos is unlike anything else in Oxford and is truly special: we are a real community, kind of like one big family (very cheesy I know).
A Benet’s student is called a ‘Benetian’ and I think the Benetian-community spirit can be nicely expressed in our eating habits. Other colleges’ dining rooms will have a high table for the ‘important’ people, and then additional seating for students. In the Benet’s Refectory however we have a common table. This is essentially one huge table which curves around the entire room where everybody sits together and eats the same food, master, guests and student alike.
Initially, I must admit that I did have worries that the small size of the college would be a problem. Perhaps it would limit my friendship group? What if I didn’t like anyone there? However, everyone was so lovely and whilst my friends in other colleges only knew people on their course or on their corridor at first, I quickly made close bonds with people from all years, people I know will be friends for life!
I thought that being in such a small place might restrict my opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities. However, aside from the tonnes of in-college opportunities for music to sport, and the number of events we have every term (a post for another time!), Benetians are also thoroughly involved in wider university life and societies, exhibiting their talents everywhere.
Furthermore, Benet’s is thoroughly multi-faith and multi-cultural place, and there are people from all walks of life. In addition, the monks are truly wonderful and we all adore them. For me, they fill a unique gap between staff and student: I consider them to be friends and people I can turn to for support whilst not being among my peers.
More on Benet's coming soon!