Every college has its quirks and traditions, yet I have never found one that quite equals Oriel.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
Now I’m in clinical school, it has to be the patients; there is no greater privilege than being allowed to delve into people’s backgrounds and support them while they are at their most vulnerable.
Casting my mind back to my fabulous first three years at Oxford, it would have to be spending so much time with the four other Oriel medics in my year. A great advantage of the Oxbridge system is that you arrive with a handful of others who will go through the same experiences as you. From cups of tea after tutes and sneaking coffee into the library mid-essay crisis, to drinking Pimms on punts and celebrating post-exams, they became my family. I’ve met a great many wonderful people at Oxford, both across other subjects at Oriel and within the wider University, but those four have remained some of my closest friends throughout.
“A great advantage of the Oxbridge system is that you arrive with a handful of others who will go through the same experiences as you.”
How is your subject taught?
Pre-clinical life consists of lectures in the morning and some combination of prosection with cadavers, lab experiments, tutorials (‘tutes’) and the occasional GP placement in the afternoon. Medics have about 3 or 4 tutes every week, delivered by expert academics from Oriel and other colleges, and you attend these as a pair or trio from your college. Tute venues can range from creaking oak-panelled rooms lined with books and sections of skeletons to consultation rooms at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and tutorial styles are no less varied!
Medics tend to embrace the ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra. You’ll certainly have more work than most, and I’ve always found it necessary to balance this with lots of fun extra-curriculars. It’s worth pointing out that you’ve chosen to study Medicine so the topics you study are pretty enjoyable too; no more plant biology for you! Personally, I’ve run with the University Athletics team, rowed fleetingly for college (it’s practically mandatory at Oriel to hop in a boat at least once), debated at the Oxford Union, and attended more dinner parties than is good for me at various locations throughout the city. Others at Oriel have swum, cheer-led, organised expeditions to the Middle East, run the college bar, never touched a drop of alcohol, and everything in between.
For the last three years, you make the Great Migration up Headington Hill to the Clinical School. Broadly speaking, you rotate across various wards within the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC), and also get to spend some time at nearby District General Hospitals. Lectures are dotted throughout your placements and most consultants will give you tutes, but teaching is predominantly of the ‘hands on’ variety.
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
I was set against Oxbridge initially as I wanted patient contact from day one. Having mulled over my decision in Year 12, I started to convince myself that it might actually be rather helpful to know a bit before leaping onto the wards. Equally, problem-based learning didn’t really appeal, I prefer the efficiency and breadth of lectures.
“The atmosphere at Oriel is brilliant and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!”
Every Medical School in the UK will make you a perfectly good doctor and you end up all doing the same job as an F1. However, I’ve always found there was an attraction to understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing, rather than rote learning interventions and drug lists. Hence, Oxford was for me.
I’m not quite sure why I chose Oriel. From a fleeting visit on an Open Day, I know it had a pretty coat of arms, three gorgeous quads, no ugly 1960s buildings to avoid in photographs, and a nice balance of small-but-not-too-small. Having said that, I couldn’t be more pleased to have chanced upon it. The atmosphere at Oriel is brilliant and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!
How did you prepare for your interview?
The Medicine interview is the most perfect challenge of intellectual ability that I have been subjected to. Your prior knowledge is irrelevant as no-one has properly studied Medicine up until this point. The entire purpose of the interview is to establish what you do when you don’t know the answer.
“The entire purpose of the interview is to establish what you do when you don’t know the answer.”
A question is asked, “why do we have two ears?”, then the probing begins. You launch down a rabbit warren of twists and turns as every answer you give results in you being rewarded with a little more information, then yet another question. All this occurs while your brain perseverates on whether you should remain perched on the edge of your sofa, upright and professional, or slouch back to show that you feel at ease in an intellectual environment.
You finally run out of answers and the interview draws to a close. You realise you’ve ended up in a Dickensian spinal slouch, neither professional nor relaxed. You leave, feeling exhausted yet exhilarated, and proceed to third quad to phone your mum and debrief about the whole affair.
That, at least, was my experience. I’m afraid one hundred Oxford medics will give you one hundred slightly different answers. The unifying advice is thus: go and enjoy it as much as you can, do your best, and try not to psychoanalyse your tutor’s reactions.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
Medicine is amazing but it’s also one hell of a lifestyle commitment. You won’t be asked as much about your work experience at Oxford as you might at universities that favour a ‘multiple mini interviews’ approach but it is vital to spend a few days in a clinical environment, and more extended time with disadvantaged peoples, so that you get a bit of insight into the wonderful yet mad world you’re about to enter.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
By choosing Oriel, you have found the small door in the large sandstone wall. Every college has its quirks and traditions, yet I have never found one that quite equals Oriel. We’re far from the largest, yet we regularly have the highest turnout at the Town & Gown 10K run and we have the most successful Boat Club in the University. The scramble to book Christmas Formal dinner places is not just explained by the scrumptious roast dinner, but also by the fantastic sense of comradeship that comes from the Provost leading the entire hall in a rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ from the balcony. Add to this that we’re located in the heart of the city, yet a 10-minute run from the countryside, and you can spend second year living in a 17th Century building sharing a living room with your best friend, and you have a winning combination.