Oriel is unparalleled when it comes to my subject: so many of the fellows and students here are theologians
What made you decide to study at Oxford?
I grew up exactly halfway between Oxford and London, so I would daytrip here as a little girl and dream about studying in the city of dreaming spires.
My parents met studying Classics at ‘The Other Place’ (or Cambridge, in common parlance). In childish fashion, I knew that I never wanted to go to the same place as my parents! Since there were only two universities in the whole wide world, ten-year-old Iona syllogistically settled on Oxford.
Why did you choose your course and what are your subject/research interests?
“As soon as I found the course option online at Oxford, I knew I had to go for it. It fit me down to a tee.”
My undergrad dissertation was a measly 8,000 words, and I was hungry for a longer word count in which to advance my philosophical strivings.
The course I wanted to do was only available at two universities in the country (and, in all honesty, the world – proving that my younger self was apodictically correct). Plenty offered Philosophy and Theology, yet it proved difficult to find a university which honoured the overlap of the two faculties as its own specialised discipline. As soon as I found the course option online at Oxford, I knew I had to go for it. It fit me down to a tee.
I initially came for a one-year MSt, but soon fell in love with Oxford and switched to the longer MPhil. I’m currently working on ‘Kant’s Dance with Christianity’, exploring the ways in which we can reconcile pure rational philosophy with the living faith of Christian belief. It’s a tough cookie, but I’m relishing the challenge.
WHow did you find the application process, and do you have any advice for others preparing to apply?
“I was bowled over by my supervisor’s support”.
There was no interview – I had to look good on paper. This consisted of a personal statement, a scholarship cover letter, and two written samples. I submitted previous coursework and asked my former lecturers to reread them, checking to see if they were ‘Oxford material’.
I didn’t find much information online about my course, so tailoring my personal statement was a little tricky. I later found out that the vagueness of the course description was due to the fact that the course is extremely flexible. This is great for designing your own essay questions once you’re here, but difficult for the initial application process.
My most valuable piece of advice would be to reach out to your subject’s director. The website will have their email and publications online. I was bowled over by my (now) supervisor’s support and willingness to arrange a chat, and that brief zoom conversation made it clear in my mind that Oxford was the place for me.
Did you specify a college on your application?
“Oriel offers formal hall six times a week – the most frequent out of all the colleges.”
Absolutely – I specified Oriel. When I was applying, my initial tactic was to type in ‘colleges which row’. In alphabetical order, Balliol was first on the list, and so was very nearly my first choice until a friend recommended that I do further research.
Oriel is unparalleled when it comes to my subject: so many of the fellows and students here are theologians, and so I’ve been able engage more with my subject than I would have done elsewhere. As well as topping the rowing charts, I must confess that the true clincher for my application was the fact that Oriel offers formal hall six times a week – the most frequent out of all the colleges.
What do you think the benefits of the collegiate system are for postgraduate students?
The breaking of bread with other students. Undergrad mathematicians and DPhil philosophers rub shoulders together over lunch, an academic-yet-social experience that is hard to find elsewhere. You don’t have to go out of your way to learn or make friends. Even simply walking into first quad, you find a familiar face and somebody to have a conversation with about everything and anything.
What do you enjoy about being a member of Oriel’s MCR community?
“You can walk in at any time of day or night and feel at home.”
The people and the space. Many are jealous of our MCR not only for our student-run bar, but the cosy ‘living room’ feel that blends so seamlessly with the golden framed portraits lining the walls. You can walk in at any time of day or night and feel at home.
I’ve also been involved with the social team on the MCR committee ever since arriving. My role consists in hosting exchanges with other college MCRs, arranging flowers for our Guest Nights, and putting on a ‘second breakfast’ every other week. The committee experience may look good on my CV, but I do it because my ‘work’ allows me to hang out with my friends and make new ones almost every week.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
It’s the quintessential ‘Oxford’ experience. Dressing up in black tie for formal hall, sitting in my gown for a tutorial, collectively chanting ‘Ooooooriellll’ in the streets after winning blades in the rowing races.
It’s a traditional college, which was exactly what I was after. But it’s not stuffy. Ask Mitzy the dog (who is legally a cat!), or the lovely porter whose jovial ‘hello my darling!’ greeting makes us smile every time.