Dear prospective applicant,
"What is it like to study at the University of Oxford?" you might ask.
There is no straight answer to this question. No two students’ experiences will be the same. And what I learned from spending the past three years here is that this is precisely its charm. Should your path lead you here, you will find a breathtakingly beautiful city, full of magical forests, enchanted meadows, and medieval alleys. And with each additional day, you will come to learn that the beauty of Oxford goes well beyond its historic appearance and its elite reputation. Its uniqueness lies the community it fosters, in the growth it stimulates, in the inspiration it sows.
Oxford is a treasure box. Whoever you are, whatever is important to you, whichever goal you strive for, you will never have to walk alone. There will be your college where you can find like-minded peers from a variety of disciplines. College life allows you to meet so many different people, each with their own story, their individual passions, humour, knowledge and kindness – a place to feel at home. There will be your department where you will find people interested in similar questions as you and who may teach you about perspectives entirely different from what you knew before you got here. You will always find people who care about you and your work, who support you if you are overwhelmed by the challenges of your project, and who celebrate with you when you had a breakthrough in a tutorial essay or your research. There will be sports clubs which help you clear your head after a long day of classes or research. Engaging in physical activity along with your friends will make you realise that your mind and your body are connected and that one cannot flourish without the other. There will be hundreds of societies to choose from which bring together people with similar fascinations and interests and which will enable you to make the best of being in such a culturally and intellectually rich place. The brilliant thing about this system is that these different communities balance each other out. They are not isolated units, they are interconnected. They enrich each other and multiply the joy of being here.
Oxford is a space of passion and hard work. And sometimes it can be more than a bit overwhelming. But do not worry. The challenges that come with being at Oxford will hopefully also teach you that excellence is not just about being a good student dedicated to your degree. It is about being a considerate, generous, and responsible part of the community. It is about acknowledging the challenges and difficulties in the process as much as it is about striving for good results. There will people comforting you when you are having a hard day – and soon enough it will be you who brings comfort to other people’s lives.
As diverse the experiences of people studying at Oxford are, there is one thing that is true for everyone. By the end of your studies, you will realise that your time at this University has transformed you in a way you would not have been able to plan nor imagine. You will have grown intellectually by having been challenged and encouraged by scholars from all over the world. But more than this, you will have learned that true growth needs to be holistic. You will have learned how important it is to grow socially by forming meaningful connections to people around you, by being curious about new activities, and by learning to listen to other people’s concerns and taking responsibility for the things you care about. And you will have grown emotionally by realising time and again what a blessing and great privilege it is have become part of such a vibrant and transformative environment.
Studying at the University of Oxford can mean many things. I am excited to find out what it might mean for you. Be assured, it will be an exciting journey. I wish you all the very best and the courage to allow yourself to be transformed by it.
Oxford, Michaelmas Term 2022
Selina is studying for a DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies