Classics enables me to study so many different aspects of the ancient world, and there is always so much to discuss in essays and tutorials.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
I love the range of different texts and being encouraged to think about them in new ways. Classics enables me to study so many different aspects of the ancient world, and there is always so much to discuss in essays and tutorials, sometimes examining a sentence in extreme detail, and at other times zooming out and looking at bigger themes across multiple authors. The focus on reading Latin and Greek authors in their original language really lets you get to grips with what is going on in a text, from Homer and Virgil to Euripides and Plato. The attention that you get from tutors here, who genuinely listen and care about what you have to say, is incredible.
How is your subject taught?
Most teaching is through tutorials, for which you will always have to do a piece of work in advance – normally an essay, but sometimes a commentary or presentation, to then discuss with the tutor and your tutorial partner(s). In the first two terms, we had one tutorial a week, and then it increased to two a week. When you first come to Oxford, there is a larger focus on improving language skills, which decreases as the degree goes on. I had learnt Latin and Greek at school, so during the first two terms I had an hour a week of faculty-organised teaching for each language, and then reading classes in Latin and Greek with my tutor in Oriel. After the first two terms, this decreased to only an hour each week of in-college classes, for unseen translation (small groups) and prose composition (one on one). If you are learning a language from scratch, you will have slightly more teaching which will be organised by the faculty, to help you learn the new language really quickly, so everyone is even by the end of first year.
”You have an incredible freedom to choose the papers you study […] It is inter-disciplinary throughout, with papers available from literature, ancient history, philosophy (ancient and modern), art and architecture, philology and language.”
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
The Classics course at Oxford stood out to me in many ways. The first half covers so many different aspects of the Classical world, including key authors and works like the Iliad and Aeneid, Greek tragedy and Latin lyric poetry. During the second half of the course, you have an incredible freedom to choose the papers you study, focusing on whatever you like – some people cover a very narrow range in much detail, whilst others keep their options broad. It is inter-disciplinary throughout, with papers available from literature, ancient history, philosophy (ancient and modern), art and architecture, philology and language. I love the emphasis on reading texts in their original form. The language teaching here is excellent and tailored to you, meaning that reading Latin and Greek is made easy so you can think about what authors mean on the level of words and phrases, as well as the bigger picture from reading larger sections in translation. Because this is a four-year course, the depth and breadth of study is unique compared to most BA courses.
In terms of the application process, I would just read as much as you can about what you are interested in, whether it is ancient texts in translation, books on ancient history, modern novels based on the ancient world, or compilations of myths, delving deeper into a few areas you like. This will really help when writing your personal statement and I found that the freedom to think and talk about what interested me kept me motivated during the process. Don’t get too stressed and nervous over the application tests! They are designed to really challenge you, and if you stay calm and focused, you will show your full potential.
How did you prepare for your interview?
My practice mainly just consisted of talking about different aspects of classics to various people, some of whom knew nothing at all about Classics! My parents were helpful – they used to just listen to me talk, occasionally asking a question, about all sorts of random things and most of the time they had no clue what I was talking about. Anyone can tell if you are clear in your meaning and ideas when you speak and if you are truly interested, which is important. I found it very hard to articulate all the different thoughts in my head into a coherent answer to a question, but this quickly changed with a little practice, and my confidence in giving extended answers increased. I read more into the topics I discussed in my personal statement, which I did end up being asked about at interview.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
Classics is a great subject! There are so many different ways to engage in the classical world, you should pursue whatever avenues you like. Reading is a big part of this, but documentaries and museums can be very useful. It’s normal to have a few specific things within the subject that you are keener on. Develop these more specific interests, but don’t close yourself off to other topics. There are often all sorts of links between themes and texts, I would follow these wherever you want, however niche it may be.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
It’s really nice to walk around college and be surrounded by people you know. Oriel is in a great location in the centre of Oxford, but inside college is a calm escape from the outside world.
I really like the sense of community here. Everyone gets on very well, and is super friendly! It’s really nice to walk around college and be surrounded by people you know. Oriel is in a great location in the centre of Oxford, but inside college is a calm escape from the outside world. There is always so much to do, whether it is sports, a talk, a social event, or some other extracurricular activity, on top of academics. Oriel is a small college, so it’s very easy to get involved. The JCR (Junior Common Room – the body of undergraduates here) is very active, with lots of events throughout term. I also like the traditions – formal hall is a super fun way to spend an evening, and is great value for money at just £7 for a three course meal which is served to you.