Travelling down to Oxford and being left alone can feel incredibly scary and I wasn’t sure how I would manage in a place where I didn’t know anybody. But as soon as I arrived I was met by a friendly student helper who took me to my room and showed me where the JCR (Junior Common Room) was. I immediately felt much less alone – although still very nervous!
The JCR is the main place to find student helpers, usually alongside games, tea and biscuits. If you have any questions, this is the place to go. I was taken to my interviews by student helpers which was really useful as I was very stressed about finding the right room! I also had interviews at two other colleges and was accompanied to these by a helper, although for the colleges with fewer student helpers you might find you have to navigate yourself. If this is the case just allow yourself plenty of time and if you can, use your phone for directions, it’s a life-saver!
Throughout the day there were always lots of student helpers and other candidates in the JCR playing board games – I have never played so many games of Articulate and Giant Jenga in my life – and also just chatting. This is perfect for waiting if you’ve got a while until your next interview. In the evenings there were various activities organised by the student helpers, including a Christmas tree walk (Oxford at Christmas is very pretty so there couldn’t be a more perfect time for interviews), a movie night and a Christmas quiz.
I was so grateful for the student helpers for making my interview experience as easy as possible, so in my first year I decided that I wanted to help the next group of nervous candidates become as relaxed as I was. The perspective from the other side is different as I was no longer overwhelmed and crazily nervous, but I did remember exactly how I felt a year earlier. I tried my best to do everything I could to ensure that candidates made it to their interviews on time and in the right place, while also enjoying their stay in Oxford. It also meant that I got to visit a few new colleges while taking people to their interviews which was exciting!
So as you travel to Oxford, nervous and unsure what to expect, remember that there will be people who are there to help make your experience as stress-free as possible. The students who volunteer do so because they can remember what it was like to be in your position and want to be of use, so make sure to ask them anything and they will be glad to help!