Classics at Oxford

Hello! We are Sophie and Lydia- we left KEHS in July 2013 and we are currently in our first year studying Classics at Oxford. We hope to talk a little about studying and living here and perhaps persuade anyone who is thinking of studying Classics at university to consider Oxford.

The course

Classics at Oxford is a 4-year course. In our first year, we’ve been studying Homer’s Iliad, Vergil’s Aeneid, and a course called ‘Texts and Contexts’ which covers a wide range of sources under broad themes. We also do a philosophy module, which can either be ancient or modern, and have to choose an art, ancient history or linguistics module. Each week is made up of ~4 lectures, classes, and a tutorial, with language assignments and a 2000 word essay. So far we’ve really enjoyed the course. It has its low points (we would urge anyone joining to learn their grammar a lot more conscientiously than we did) and of course the workload is a step up, but when a lot of other people are in the same position (aided by the proximity of the local kebab van) it is much easier. Tutorials are daunting at first but they are equally rewarding. And if you think Oxford is full of rusty academics, one of our tutors regularly comments on the ups and downs of his love life in lectures (#standardclassicist) and has done the Haka in a tutorial. Work is just one side of the ‘university experience’. Although work will keep you busy, and terms are short (8 weeks long) and intense, we all manage to fit in other things; Lydia does rowing, and Sophie music, for instance. Being part of a college also makes it much easier to make friends and get to know people in different subjects and year groups. On the whole most people buck the “Oxford stereotype” (i.e. intimidating public school boys, working 24/7, not going out etc). The small size of the town (everything is within walking distance) is really convenient, whether it means your 9am class on the other side of town starts in 15 minutes and you’ve only just got out of bed, or there’s an event at another college which you want to go to, or the fact that you can just walk home from the club. Doing classics at university is extremely rewarding- having the time to dig deeper into your subject and to be able to read much more around your subject is great. One important aspect of an arts degree which differs from school is the emphasis on independent study. If you’re thinking of applying to do classics, consider Oxford! Oxford has a large classics department and there are lots of opportunities to do other things with the university and in Oxford. We would advise you to pick a college carefully and to visit colleges at open days where you can also meet the tutors- they make a lot of difference to your experience of the course. If you want to hear more from us, ask Dr G or Ms Chambers for our contact details, we would be happy to talk to you!

Two days in the life

Wednesday

11am Tutorial in college. There are 6 of us- we’ve all written an essay, and one of our group reads out their work. We then have a discussion on issues brought up in the essay and look at the topic in more detail. 

1pm Lunch. I stayed up late to finish my essay last night so then take the inevitable post-tutorial nap.

3pm Philosophy discussion in college – we read something by a different author each week and we discuss it in the meeting. Today it’s Descartes.

21:00 After work I end up on the Cheese Floor at Park End, the Wednesday night club of choice.

Thursday

9am It is early. Faculty Greek language class. I am in a group of 8 with people from different colleges. The class consists of a grammar drill and various language and translation exercises.

10am Lydia and I meet up for much needed coffee and breakfast

11am Lecture on the Aeneid

12pm Head back to college for lunch

2pm Greek language class in college. We go over a homework translation after a vocab test.

3.30pm Reading class in college – we’re studying the Aeneid this term, so we go through 100 lines of Latin which we’ve prepared in advance

6pm Dinner in college

7pm Orchestra rehearsal in town

10pm Back to college via the ice cream shop (which is open until midnight- very dangerous).

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