What I’ve gathered from conversations with others on my course is that the interview experience is very varied and unique to each candidate - this reality is not exclusive to Japanese! Whilst this perhaps sounds daunting considering all the possible ways things could go and all the things a tutor could ask (I was so scared about this!), it’s actually a blessing in disguise. There isn’t a requirement for you to have learned the language before; there isn’t a need for you to have read 10,000 books on Japanese history, for you to know the edicts of the Taika reforms or to have even glanced at The Tale of Genji - that’s what you’re applying to do! It’s just a chance for tutors to see how you react to unfamiliar material, how you reason and grapple with ideas and how you articulate yourself; your potential, not a capacity to memorise and regurgitate information, is what they’re truly looking for.
So, in the run up to interviews, this is my advice:
1. Get used to talking about your subject.
With an unusual subject like Japanese, it’s difficult to find people to have a good in depth discussion about it that doesn’t revolve around anime (in my experience at least), so prepping for interview can be a challenge. But as interview requires you to think out loud, it can be really helpful to get the gears in motion by just talking about what you’re reading. So talk to your mom, your hamster, yourself if necessary and get those ideas out there to get yourself ahead of the game!
2. Pre-interviews, REREAD your personal statement.
I cannot stress this enough. Know what you’ve said in case you’re asked about it. Read around it. If you’ve changed your mind about what you’ve written, justify yourself, show that you’re actively engaging with your learning
3. During interviews, RELAX, do your own thing and don’t feel pressured to stick with your competition.
Sure, it’s great to meet new people, but don’t pressure yourself into doing things you’re not comfortable with. And don’t let yourself be intimidated by other interviewees that you perceive to know more than you do. It’s a stressful time for everyone, so try your best to chill, explore (go visit one of G&D’s ice-cream cafe or Ben’s Cookies in the Cornmarket!) and most of all, to enjoy the experience. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of ride.
Essentially, interviews are as much about the tutors working out if you’re right for the course, as you working out if Oxford is right for you. You heard me right: not if you’re right for Oxford, if Oxford is right for YOU. You’ve done the hard work by getting here, so believe in yourself, have faith in what you can bring to Oxford and GOOD LUCK!