Explaining Oxford

By Elle Bennett

Have you recently received an offer from Oxford? Are you starting to freak out about the fact that your uni experience is going to be different from your friends'?


Today, TOG student ambassador, Elle, is explaining Oxford and navigating all its quirks...


When you’re a student at any university, sometimes friends and family who have never been to university don’t understand exactly what it’s like. When you’re at Oxford, this is even more common!


When I started university, I felt like I was struggling to communicate with my friends and family about my time at university. I didn’t want anybody to feel that I was always going on about Oxford, but equally, when my friends were speaking about their university experience, I felt quite isolated. This would happen when my friends were chatting about finding a student house for the next year; getting stressed about handing an essay in in two weeks’ time and especially when everybody spoke about crazy freshers’ weeks of clubbing all night and sleeping all day.


When everybody could relate to each other, it was hard to answer questions without feeling like I was distancing myself from them. Worcester College provides accommodation for all 3 years of my degree; in the space of two weeks I usually have at least three, if not four, essay deadlines and my freshers’ week was mostly spent in the library.


Even after a year, it can be a challenge. With collections in my first week back, it’s hard to explain that I can’t come to every social event whilst at home because I need to revise.

The main thing I started to do was to change my language. As soon as you arrive in Oxford, you pick up the jargon, which can be really isolating to people who are not familiar with it. Therefore, I became mindful of the terms I was using. For example, I would stop myself from mentioning rusticating and just say ‘taking a year out’ or talk about the ‘clothes we wear for exams’ rather than sub fusc.


Furthermore, I introduced friends and family to the structure of my day gradually. Due to not having many lectures as a Law student, I would casually mention that I’d spent the day preparing for my tutorial, which is like a seminar but with fewer students. After a while, I understood what it was like to be at other universities and my friends understood what it was like to be at Oxford. This ultimately meant that we could all relate to one another’s experiences and were aware of when everybody needed a little more support due to doing through a stressful or intense period.


Often, friends and family do want to find out more about different traditions and the way Oxford works. In this case, I enjoy telling them all about the quirks of the university and the things that make it so special and unique. Hopefully, if they hear it from a student rather than an inaccurate newspaper article, they will see what Oxford is really like.


Ultimately, there’s no need to feel like you don’t fit in with your friends at different universities. Don’t just assume that nobody understands how you’re feeling – this just distances you even more and can be really patronising. Everybody is trying to make new friends, explore their new home and get their work in one time!