I am a neuroscience PhD student and currently the president of the Oxford University Cortex Club, which is a society that connects students with leading scientists. Having completed my undergraduate degree in Zurich, I probably went through many of the thoughts you might currently have about coming to Oxford.
Oxford is one of the best places to do science in Europe. Not only will you have access to leading laboratories, you will also study and work with highly competent and motivated students and colleagues. In my experience, there is almost nothing better than having excellent people to work with. Furthermore, the London area is the world's largest geographic source of scientific work, which facilitates collaboration, fosters contacts and attracts globally renowned visitors. For example, as president of the Cortex Club, I invite leading neuroscientists from all over the world twice a month. They will come to give a talk and afterwards we take them to the pub and continue discussions over beers.
A unique thing about science at Oxford is that you frequently need to explain your science to smart people outside of science. Surprising as this may sound, it is a hard-learned lesson and has helped me a lot to put my science into perspective for non-experts (and myself). This is not to be underestimated because the people who will fund you later on in your career are likely to be a similar, educated but non-specialist audience.
The great social life in Oxford may be less obvious to you than the part about science. Most students, however, are new here and want to meet other people! And even better, Oxford and particularly Lincoln College actively encourage you to engage in the rich social life at the University. In fact, Oxford may be one of the best places where you can combine hard work with a rich social life. The city is small enough so that you can reach most places within 15 minutes by bike. You can get out of the lab and within minutes be in a salsa class, on the football pitch, in the gym, at a three-course "Harry Potter style" college dinner, or dressed as a Rubik’s Cube in the middle of one of Oxford’s infamous student fancy dress parties. Yet the best part about Oxford's size is that it does not feel small. Every year, thousands of students come and go and in the summer, the place is full of exchange and language students.
What really makes the social experience at Oxford unique is that you find so many different nationalities and life stories in such a small space. While you will meet great people in your field, Oxford also connects you to people from different academic and social backgrounds, whom you may never have met otherwise. Just to give you an example, one of my best friends is Norwegian and now practices law in Oslo and my girlfriend is Chinese and has just finished her PhD in Biochemistry.
Lastly, while Lincoln College may quickly feel like a family to you, you probably will also want to stay connected with people back in Switzerland. This was very important to me. There are two things to be said here: Firstly, most people will not at all mind visiting London and its immensely beautiful neighbour Oxford. You will therefore probably not have a lack of visitors from back home. Secondly, you have six airports nearby that have flights to Basel, Zurich and Geneva. The flights are frequent and cheap, making travel between Oxford and Switzerland easy.
In summary, Oxford and Lincoln College offer an unforgettable experience, lifelong friendships with unique people, and of course a jumpstart to your career.
For any questions or help with applications, feel free to contact me any time.
Oxford, 23rd October 2015.
Martin was studying for a DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics.