By Julianna Barker
When you do a four-year course at Oxford (like me, studying Modern Languages) you often imagine that your last year could be somewhat lonely; a lot of your friends and matriculation cohort have already graduated, and have jobs, meanwhile you are still studying in Oxford, and as we say in the colleges, an irrelevant fourth year! Despite this negative look of what doing a four-year course is like, I’ve found my fourth year at Oxford to be quite the opposite! Instead of remaining without friends at Oxford, a fourth year is the last chance to really enjoy the studying experience; especially if you’re lucky enough to get a set to live in (a room with an attached study and en-suite bathroom, for one student, commonly given to finalists).
A three-year course can be a great idea, but especially during this year with the pandemic I was grateful to have an extra year to soak up the Oxford experience. Plus, we get to do our exams in Oxford (although not in the Exams schools), which means the student tradition of ‘trashing’ (celebrating finishing your last exam by getting shaving foam, confetti and Holi powder thrown on you, before jumping in the river) can continue for our year. Our peers who finished last year are obviously not around, but enough of them come back to Oxford to visit that you don’t feel disconnected from the outside world as a fourth year, which you might expect.
As a modern language’s student, you also have your whole languages cohort to study with as well. Although there are relatively few fourth years, it can lead to the experience being unique and exciting; having completed a year abroad, you are more mature and have already experienced what it’s like to live as an adult outside of the Oxford student bubble. You get one final chance to be a student, but you also have had the experience of what it’s like to work and rent a place outside of a university, which gives you that extra preparation when you’re looking for jobs after graduating. The chance to complete a fourth year at Oxford will feel like a blessing; you’ll realize otherwise you would have already graduated and be out in the ‘real world’, missing all the perks Oxford has to offer: formal halls, punting on the river, strawberries and Pimm’s in the college gardens, a walk to Port Meadow with friends, and of course studying in the beautiful old libraries. Plus, as an ‘irrelevant’ fourth year, you get to walk around your college feeling like a wise-old owl!
It’s well worth considering a four-year course at Oxford; you’ll find many of your friends who have only done three years will tell you they miss Oxford already, and that three years fly by! While finding a job and working sounds exciting, and it is, you’ll never get to be an undergraduate again; even if you take a second course, you’ll never experience what it’s like to be a student for the first time, especially in a place as beautiful and filled with mysterious traditions as Oxford. The fourth and final year of your degree allows you to pull it all together; to take the maturity and life skills you have learned from your year abroad or in industry, and your love for the strange traditions around Oxford, and the beautiful city, to one final chance to live the student experience to the fullest, and of course, to get trashed by all your friends coming back to visit Oxford for your final exam!