So what’s it really like being a student at Jesus College? Meet some of our students, past and present, to find out more.
Course: MBA (postgraduate one-year course)
From: South Africa – University of Cape Town
Living in: Main College (Third Quad)
“You never did tell me”, said Lady Nuttal, “what it is your fiancé does for a living.” “He’s finishing off his MBA” replied Lamia, with an annoying sense of being on the defensive. Lady Nuttal was obviously taken aback. It had not occurred to her that such people entered into normal social relationships. The species, she would have surmised, was perpetuated in some collateral manner, like mules.
(With apologies to K.A.C. Manderville)
Even before classes at the Saïd Business School had started, I was unnerved. This was not due to completing the preparatory readings and thus better understanding the daunting task ahead, but rather because everyone I met at Oxford had looked at me slightly quizzically whenever I happened to mention my intended area of study. Urban legends had sprung up about these furtive creatures, who were heard of but rarely spotted. It was whispered that they spent all their time locked up at the Business School, frantically running from one lecture or work group to the next. When they did emerge in college, it usually was in the dead of night, lest they actually bump into a fellow graduate and be forced to go to the MCR.
The particular species did, admittedly, have cocktail events, but here the main task at hand was apparently to “network” and “seek synergies”. The fact that wine was used at such events as a means to an end- in this case, networking – rather than being an end in itself was sacrilege to most Jesubites. In short, such students were not fit for proper social company.
Having been here almost a full term, I’m now in a better position to appraise the situation. It’s a relief to have found out that not only is the work manageable, provided one keeps one’s wits, but perhaps more importantly that most Jesus graduates don’t share such prejudices. My time here has been enhanced by being attached to this college, and being part of the wider graduate community within it. Oxford’s unique collegiate set-up means that as a graduate student, one is never isolated from the rest of the campus- in fact, one feels closer to it by being in such close contact with students from a wide variety of other disciplines. I share my “staircase” with a German, a Nigerian and a Mexican, and learning more about each culture has been a highly enriching experience.
The MBA work schedule can be gruelling, with lectures, group meetings, work assignments and research. A typical day begins at 8:45 am with a 3-hour lecture, interspersed with a short break. Afternoons, if not filled with a second lecture, are usually spent working in your pre-arranged groups on assignments, or in support classes.
Part of my method of maintaining some degree of sanity has been to be as involved in Jesus life as possible. No matter how busy my schedule, I aim to return to college for lunch a few times a week, and also to return home in time for dinner every day. These times, especially if followed by tea and cookies in the MCR with other grads, are the best for switching off from class, and for building lasting friendships within the Jesus community. It’s great to be able to get away from the grind of class by having a quiet source of relaxation, and that’s what Jesus provides.
The MCR committee has also been great this year, in terms of organising loads of events, bops and exchange dinners. The event calendar is jam-packed up until the end of 8th week, and it’s always a good sign when you have to decide which Friday night party you want to attend! Generally, the sense I get is of a very strong bond existing between the grads, but not so strong as to ever be cliquey. One of the best times of the week are Sunday mornings, when all of us meet in the MCR room for brunch, organised by the committee. People end up staying long after the food has been picked off (although whether this is due to the friendly atmosphere, or due to a determined effort to stave off studying, is open to supposition) And I’m particularly keen on the idea of our mailing list, which means that anyone, anytime, can email the group, even if it’s to see if anyone wants to have a quick cuppa.
Course: Diploma in Legal Studies (postgraduate one-year course)
From: Canada – University of Victoria
Living in: Thelwall House (College flats for married couples)
Monday 5:30 am (yes, AM): I awake to the intense pulsing of my alarm clock reminding me that while it may be pitch black outside the day must begin. I collect my “oxford blue” one-speed and head down to the Isis. It is unusually wet and muddy along the pathway making me wish that I were in the boat rather than coaching from the bank on my one-speed, not so ideal in the mud. However, as the darkness lifts and the Jesus College boat crew becomes visible, I am overwhelmed by a sense of pride as they glide effortlessly past the struggling Christ Church crew. After a quick pep talk in the boathouse, it is off to College for a hot breakfast and chat about how well the crew is developing for the Summer Eights.
With the athletic goal achieved, it is time to prepare for the famous weekly “tute” (tutorial) with Jesus College’s resident law guru Peter Mirfield. After breakfast, a trip to the Bodleian Library to collect the several hundred pages of reading that I will transform into my artillery for battle later this week. Before my first lecture, I refuel with a carbo-packed fruit and nut brownie from the Alternative Tuck Shop, a must for sandwiches. After being thoroughly entertained and hopefully educated by Professor Horder on the complications of British criminal law as it relates to murder, it is back home to begin extracting the essentials from my readings. A home cooked dinner with my wife Buffy, complete with dessert from Tesco’s, as we debrief each other on another busy day.
Tuesday 6:30 am (yes, AM, but a whole extra hour of sleep): It is off to the Iffley Road Sports Complex for a Blue’s (Oxford University) Rowing team morning session of weights and ergs, (rowing’s substitute for hell). However, the prospect of breakfast at St Catz with one of the boys is enough to get me through. I was fortunate to discover very early on that each college tends to have one or two unique features, and the porridge at St Catz is the best in Oxford. Then it is off to the library to read about another misdirection by Lord Diplock on the matter of “recklessness”. Today I don’t have any lectures so I have scheduled a meeting with the “Prime Minister” of the Canadian Student’s Society to discuss the lack of awareness in Oxford about the developments in the National Hockey League lockout. The Blue’s rowing team then piles into mini-buses and heads off to Wallingford where we train on a narrow but very long stretch of the River Thames. Today it is dark by the time we head back to Oxford (4:15 pm) – could someone explain Daylight Savings please?
Wednesday 6:30 am (I imagine you have decided not to row by now): The highlight of the day was an exchange dinner with Merton College. This was a great way to experience life at another college and meet new friends. It was also a chance for the Jesus students to be reminded how much better our college is than any other, however Merton did have nice pudding for dessert. Some of us stopped at the King’s Arms for a pint on the way home, we are all struggling to keep up our 21 units of alcohol quota for the week.
Thursday, yup, 6:30 am: The day of reckoning for criminal law students at Jesus. Today I had my tutorial with Peter Mirfield and while I am still alive I have definitely been wounded. This is a unique experience where despite all of your preparations you still find yourself hopelessly overmatched. However, this week I have heard the words that any first year law student dreams of: “well argued”. No matter that this compliment was quickly followed by reference to two or three cases that I failed to mention. I still experience the same feeling of relief as I walk out of Mr Mirfield’s room that I felt after my first “tute”. The rest of the day is a blur but I do remember stopping into the College bar to share my feelings of relief with Mr Fosters and Mr Guinness.
Friday and Saturday until 5:00 pm: Two lectures in the morning that kindly remind me that while my week five tutorial is now complete the next one is less than a week away. Two solid days of training with the Blues including a trip to London to race in the 4’s head, another rowing substitute for hell, a twenty minute race along the Boat Race course. A chance to take a crack at the enemy, Cambridge. This was my second visit into London and Buffy and I decided to stay for the afternoon on Saturday to see some sights and then take the train back. Everything really is only an hour away from Oxford.
Saturday Night: The evening began at the Oxford Blue, a really cosy little pub off the Iffley Road for all those who share in a common despisal of Cambridge and love of anything in which Oxford proves to more competent than Cambridge. The rowing team played host to the hockey girls, the tennis girls, and the gymnastics girls. Yes, it is worth getting up at 6:30 am. Then off to the Bridge nightclub for dancing and the occasional beverage until closing, 3:00 am.
Sunday 8:00 am: As I struggle into my gear for football with the team, I must confess that I am experiencing the “blues”. However, these are not unique to fifth week, only to Sunday mornings after a night on the town in Oxford.
Organ Scholar: 2013-2016
Course: BA Music (undergraduate three-year course)
From: Wiltshire – Godolphin School
Living in: Main College
Monday: This morning I do some organ practice to go through the music for Sunday and identify any problem areas. After lunch I have a conducting lesson with Paul Spicer, which proves to be extremely useful. We spend virtually the entire lesson on a psalm and some tricky responses, so I feel much better prepared for when I take the service next week. I then rush back for my analysis tute (tutorial), in which I discover all the things I could have put in my essay…
Tuesday: Today is fairly commitment free, so I’m able to get the reading done for my next history essay. We also have the delight of our weekly organ scholar’s meeting with Megan, our chaplain. These are always accompanied by coffee from the SCR and biscuits, as we discuss the previous and upcoming services, although it usually ends up turning into a general chat. Today we also discuss venues for the annual choir tour in the summer (this year to Vienna and Bratislava).
Wednesday: Today 8am seems to come round much too soon as I get up for our two hour 9am lecture for composition on New Music. This turns out to be worth the effort, as it is highly interesting, and serves as a stark contrast to the next lecture on Polyphony for Plainchant. My essay deadline is 5pm today, so the main task for the afternoon is to finish this. Inevitably the email is sent at 4.56; still it’s earlier than my friend who submits his at 4.58! This evening, I take advantage of lack of essay to go to a free chamber music concert in the Holywell Music Room.
Thursday: Thursdays are usually quite busy for me. The tutor in my hip-hop tute seems quite pleased with my essay (phew!) and we all get into a very in depth discussion about how the political situation has affected hip-hop in Cuba. This is followed by a psychology of music lecture, which proves very informative. 4.30 is choir practice where we look at music for the coming Sunday. We know the music fairly well so there is a jovial, light-hearted atmosphere. This is followed by the Eucharist service, in which I play a hymn on the piano. The service always has a lovely relaxed feel with student preachers. I then head off to the University Wind Orchestra rehearsal (in which I play the French horn) followed by a trip to G and Ds (an ice cream cafe) with friends from the orchestra on the way home.
Friday: This morning I have to get up fairly early so that we can go and collect the timpani from the Music Faculty in preparation for the TSAF (Turl Street Arts Festival) opening concert tomorrow evening (which the Turl Street organ scholars organise/ conduct). This turns out to be a highly amusing and noisy task as we attempt to drag the trolley up St Aldate’s hill. This is followed by the weekly keyboard skills ritual (…), with the rest of the day then free to try and make some headway with my composition, and deal with the rather large pile of laundry that has appeared in my room. This evening I go to Formal Hall (a three course meal which scholars can attend for free on Wednesdays and Fridays, and which the choir can attend for free after services) which is good fun with rather nice food.
Saturday: Today is the day of the concert so a large proportion of the day seems to be taken up by the various choral and orchestral rehearsals, although I manage to squeeze some organ practice in between. The concert is a lovely chance for all three choirs to join up and sing different repertoire to evensong, and gives them the opportunity to sing with a high-quality orchestra. I enjoy the chance to play continuo and actually sing for once and James (my Senior Organ Scholar) has lots of fun conducting Bach’s Magnificat.
Sunday: For many, Sunday is the lazy day of the week, with a lie-in until brunch, but for me, the focus is Evensong. Rehearsals start at 4, with free choir tea and chocolate/ cake between the rehearsal and service itself. This is followed by sherry and free formal hall. James reads the grace. There is generally an attempt to read it as fast as possible without losing clarity. He narrowly beats his record of 17 seconds. Many decamp to the bar for pub quiz after Formal, but my friends watch a film in my room instead (one of the numerous advantages of being an organ scholar is you get one of the largest sets of rooms in college for all three years, which is extremely useful). It’s a good way to unwind after a busy day, and I now feel ready to face the week ahead.
Course: BA Modern Languages – First Year (undergraduate four-year course)
From: Carmarthen – Ysgol Gyfun Bro Myrddin
Living in: Main College
Monday: This week’s essay in Spanish is on a long poem by Antonio Machado. I dedicated this morning to working my way through the story version of the poem in the library at Jesus, before going to a language tutorial in Lincoln College. I have three tutorials a week; one for Spanish translation, one for Spanish literature and one for Celtic literature. I like having one of my tutors at a different college as it means that I get to mix with people from outside Jesus on a regular basis, and it’s also just across the street.
After that, I went with a friend to the covered market for a coffee break, made a quick stop at the Taylor Institution Library (which is for medieval and modern languages and linguistics) to collect some books for the afternoon, and then went to Hall at Jesus to have lunch. I spent the afternoon reading through some of the critical material for the essay, and in the evening a friend of mine, who rows for one of the teams in the Jesus College Boat Club, had invited us to the launch of the summer boat race between the colleges called Summer VIIIs.
Tuesday: I began this morning as I endeavor to begin each one – but don’t always succeed – by reading at least one article on the Spanish newspaper El País’s website, and spending half an hour or so doing ‘admin’ – a term to try and make answering emails and organizing the day and the week ahead sat on a chair in my pyjamas sound important and civilized.
This term, I have one lecture a week, and that’s where I went at 12pm. This time, the lecture consisted of a very interesting man in purple trousers talking to around of a hundred of us Spanish first years about the ballad form. However, just before that I had a grammar class in the Language Centre at 10.30am. The rest of the day went in finishing preparing my essay and planning it ready to be written the following day.
Wednesday: I got up nice and early today, as Wednesdays are one of the busiest days of the week. I started by writing the essay I had been preparing for the last two days. Then I had a Celtic tutorial in which we discussed an Old Irish tale that I had written an essay about the previous weekend. Although the language is completely new for me this year, it has gotten easier, and more or less the same skills apply for all languages and analyses of any literature when it comes to writing an essay, so I really enjoyed the tutorial.
After finishing there (these normally go on for a bit more than the allocated hour, since we talk about a lot of language-related things that aren’t directly to do with the topic of the tutorial), I rushed back to College for a Welsh grammar class at 12pm.
That busy period meant that I missed food in Hall and so I had a late working-lunch in my room, putting the finishing touches to my essay in order to email it to my tutor by 4pm – all of my work is sent by email.
The manic timetable settles down after I’ve sent my work, and so I have time to have a little tea break in my friend’s room. After dinner I went over to St. Peter’s College to rehearse with my band.
Thursday: Tomorrow is Mayday – a strange pagan tradition that is widely celebrated in Oxford and is lots of fun. However, as one of the traditions of this celebration is to stay up all night and sing straight after dawn, this means that I have to get a lot of work done today so that I can take it easy tomorrow. This meant getting all my translations done in the morning – I have two to do every week – and then getting started with next week’s essay in Celtic, which will be on two twentieth-century Welsh poems.
I had time off in the afternoon though as the College choir, of which I am a member, had a rehearsal – we rehearse twice a week; once on a Thursday afternoon, and then on a Sunday afternoon just before we sing in the weekly service in chapel. I enjoy going to the rehearsals since it’s a great place to catch up with friends, and although it’s a non-auditioning choir, meaning that there’s lots of fun and joking to be had, the standard is very high.
Friday: I have a Spanish oral class every other Friday, but that’s all I have on Fridays, meaning that this week I had the day completely free of any contact hours. However, it was May Day and so having stayed up all night to celebrate (most pubs and bars were open all night), gone to listen to Magdalen College choir sing at dawn, and sung in my college’s own May Day service in second quad, I was understandably tired. Completely contrary to the norm, I slept for a few hours that morning, before making sure I got up in time for lunch.
In the afternoon I split my time between working on the Celtic essay, and reading through my favourite poetry anthologies in order to find some poems to read in the first meeting of the newly founded Jesus College Poetry Society down in the College bar. It turned out to be a great success, and much more popular than I expected it to be, so hopefully there’ll be many more to come.
Saturday: I spent a few hours this morning in the Radcliffe Camera learning vocabulary and revising Old Irish grammar, as it is a library that I like to work in if I have things to learn – it’s also pretty, and very close to Jesus College. Apart from that, I didn’t do much work. Just before lunch I had a meeting with the a theatre review group who I’ll be going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with in the summer, as we are organizing an event later during term to promote our trip to the Festival. After a long lunch break I made my way over to the Exam Schools where my Spanish tutor was holding a Q&A session in the Modern Languages Open Day, so my tutorial partner and I went along to answer questions from a student perspective.
Saturday evening, I stayed in, and a few of us watched some telly in my friend’s room – by which I mean, browsing various iPlayers until we found something we all wanted to watch.
Sunday: Although Sunday morning is less work-related for most, I had to more or less finish my essay for Celtic as it’s due in on Monday, and because after brunch (which is perhaps the weekend’s highlight), I have only a few hours before choir rehearsal. We rehearse for an hour and a half before evensong (the Chapel’s Sunday evening service), and then afterwards, we, as choir members, can go to Second Hall for free. Second Hall is what we call the second sitting for dinner, which is generally a bit more formal, and although no formal dress is required, I wear a shirt and tie because of the choir’s Sunday dress code. By the time that’s finished, I’m quite sleepy and so I go back to my room, and try to have a relatively early night.
Course: BA Biological Sciences – First Year (undergraduate three-year course)
From: York – Fulford School
Living in: Main College
We have three labs a week; Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, each three hours long from 10am (straight after the morning lecture) to 1pm. The time you spend in labs varies depending on the topic you are covering – a complex dissection may take the full three hours, whereas drawing microscope slides can take far less time. When you start the Organisms course, two of your labs a week will be dissection, the third being either Cells or Genes. There are write ups to complete in the lab, and occasionally you have to finish these in your own time, but that rarely happens. On Fridays, we also have an hour in the computer suite, where we work on statistics and learn code for data analysis.
On an average week, I have two lectures every day, at 9am and 2pm, plus an extra 10am on Wednesdays (the 2pm is also moved to 12pm on Wednesday so you have most of the afternoon off!) These are an hour long, and in first year are always in the same lecture theatre, so there’s never any running round trying to find where you’re meant to be. Usually we have Cells and Genes in the morning and Organisms in the afternoon.
Every week, I am set an essay by my tutor. Which tutor I have varies approximately every fortnight, as we go to tutors from other colleges to see experts in particular fields. The essay is preparation for the tutorial we have once a week, and is the only set work we are set outside of labs, so the work I do during the week is always essay reading followed by a couple of days of essay writing.
Outside of contact-time and essay-writing, I have plenty of time to spend doing my own thing. I volunteer with an environmentally minded education group who teach in primary schools, which has one meeting a week, I row at least three days a week, and I also do an awful lot of socialising, especially in the evenings! Film nights are a regular fixture, and I usually leave my door open during the day so my friends can wander in for a chat whenever. This term has been really busy socially; I’ve seen two student plays at the Oxford Playhouse and one professional play. I have been to two Bops (College fancy dress parties), and at least four formal meals, including the annual Biology dinner with the tutors, postgrads and Fellows, a couple of meals out at restaurants, a musical performance at the Principal’s Lodgings and so many more things. Despite the course being pretty full on with the contact time and the weekly essay, I think biologists get a pretty good deal considering how much free time we can have once you’ve got the week’s work done.
Overall work hours in a typical week:
Lectures – 11
Labs – 10
Tutorials – 1
Private work/essay reading and writing – 15-20+
(depending on the question)
Course: BA Geography – Final Year (undergraduate three-year course)
From: Watford – Watford Grammar School for Boys
Living in: Bartlemas Close (College flats)
Being a geographer typically affords me the privilege to indulge my laziness as very rarely do we have early lectures. Normally lectures will begin at 11 on most days and last for an hour or two. This means the morning can be used either to get ahead on work for the week’s essay or for catching up on some sleep! Following lectures, everyone usually heads into College to get lunch in Hall. What should be only a twenty minute meal almost always ends up stretching out to a break for an hour or so, as people attempt to avoid the library.
My afternoons are usually spent in the College library reading for or writing my essay/s for the week and dealing with any issues that arise from my position on the JCR Committee as Treasurer. Unless I have any meetings or other commitments I normally work through until dinner at 6 in College. During first year, geographers are expected to attend computer sessions teaching them skills for Earth Observation and statistics in order to prepare them for the Final Honour School; these take place for around two hours on one afternoon a week. Most of my tutorials are organised for the afternoon so some afternoons will be spent reading through my essays and trying to prepare myself for any questions that might be asked. Tutorials can either be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding if you are engaged with a topic, or a scramble to say anything that will get you through the hour if you haven’t put the effort in…
What I do following dinner is dependent on how productive I have been in the afternoon; on some days I can afford to take the whole evening off and on others I will work for a few more hours in the evening. I try to make sure that every night I am doing something social, be that relaxing with friends or going out to one of Oxford’s clubs. Whilst there is a lot of work to be done at Oxford it is incredibly enriching, and rather than work eating into time spent doing extracurricular/social activities, students tend to find that somehow they push themselves to get everything done every week and ensure they’re not missing out on anything! Everyone manages their work differently, but after a term at Oxford you’ll come to work out what works best for you!
Course: Mathematics – Second Year (undergraduate four-year course)
From: Milton Keynes – Denbigh School
Living in: Woodstock Road (College flats)
Morning: 8 am, dragging myself out of bed I groggily head down to breakfast hoping that food will be able to wake me up before my 9 o’clock lecture. Making the daily cycle to the Maths Institute I weave in and out of tourists and cars, arriving, once again, just in time for them to start. The warmth of the lecture hall and the lack of sleep the night before might entice me to curl up in my seat and nap. But no, greater things call: Maths. Having successfully kept my eyes open for two hours, hopefully absorbing some of what I’ve written down, I head back into College to grab some lunch and play some pool, putting off work for as long as possible.
Afternoon: Afternoons can be quite varied, depending on what work is due and how little has been completed earlier in the week. Tutorials and classes usually dominate an afternoon; in groups of two or six respectively, College tutors take us through the merits, and pitfalls, in our problem sheets. Having completed as much work as possible for one afternoon, food is usually the next port of call, and I head back into Hall to grab something to eat. On Thursday afternoons I usually have time to head down to Barts (third year accommodation) to play a game of rugby for College before rushing back, still covered in mud, for a tutorial.
Evening: Hopefully by now I will have completed my work, but depending on when my deadlines are, or how unproductive I’ve been earlier in the day, a short stint in the library may be necessary to complete my work to hand in. After this I’m free, which usually means heading out for drinks at one of Oxford’s finest nightclubs. This seems to make me feel a lot less stressed, though this obviously has nothing to do with the number of drinks consumed.
Lectures Monday to Friday 9-11
Tutorials or Classes 2-4 each week approx. 1-2 hours
Problem Sheets 3-5 each week approx. 4-5 hours