Student Profile: Sabrina Brewer
Degree: English Language & Literature
A Levels: English, History, Russian
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
I really appreciate the freedom we get each week to pick books or topics that most interest us, but which are also relevant to the paper more generally and stick to the broader structure of the course. The Oxford English course is particularly wide-ranging and as such has encouraged me to read outside of my comfort zone and explore texts I would not normally gravitate towards, whilst the language and literary theory side has unexpectedly been a highlight of my learning this year!
Moreover, tutorial-style teaching is something I particularly enjoy for the way in which it allows for a deeper discussion that is relevant to and dictated largely by what your particular response to a text or texts was that week. English is a subject made up of different voices and opinions and it is rewarding to spend time alone reading and developing opinions that can then be fleshed out in classes or discussion with peers and tutors.
How is your subject taught?
We have 1 to 2 classes a week which are for everyone in our year at Oriel studying the subject and then usually 1 or 2 tutorials relevant to the class or essay topic from that week. Lectures are mainly optional, with a few advised as compulsory, and are so wide-ranging that not all of them might be relevant to the books you are studying. A lot of learning comes from the reading you do in your own time, particularly for essays, which is then expanded upon and consolidated by a tutorial discussion.
How did you prepare for your interview?
I really tried to think critically and engagingly about books I had read, plays and even films I had seen etc. and keeping a notebook with all these ideas written down in. Trying to pinpoint exactly why you liked or didn’t like something, what a text does well, especially in comparison to others, or what in your opinion makes a book ‘good’ are great ways to better understand the way in which you respond to and think about literature more generally.
I read further around the books from my personal statement and read secondary criticism on broader themes or topics that interested me, trying also to practice talking my ideas through with family or teachers to be more comfortable with articulating myself and my thoughts clearly.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
I think if you genuinely love English literature and engaging thoughtfully with books then you shouldn’t worry about anything – that kind of passion will come through in your application! Also, don’t stress about the reading or feeling like you need to have read everything from every literary period or genre there is. I only really knew that I wanted to study English in my final year of school and remember being so concerned that I hadn’t read widely enough. Trust in your interests and read the things you enjoy whilst also being attuned to what it is you dislike and ready to challenge these beliefs when you get to university – the more I read the more I am constantly surprised at how much my literary taste changes!
Also do not be put off by people telling you it is a lot of reading – somehow it all manages to get done and isn’t more than other humanities subjects!
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
Oriel is a beautiful college with a strong sense of tradition – something that is felt strongly at a university like Oxford. I love the friends I have made and because it is not a huge college there is a really nice support network and sense of community.