Friday 15th September 2017
Alumni Guest Blog – Maddison Sumner, University of Oxford
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of John Leggott College, we have asked different Alumni students from over the years to write a ‘guest blog’ for our website, to give an insight into their life since leaving JLC.
My name is Maddison Sumner and I am about to go into my second year of studying French and Linguistics at Lady Margaret Hall, a college at the University of Oxford. I studied at JLC between 2014-2016, and it’s really important to me that my background was an important aspect of my application to University.
I was very lucky to take part in the Oxford UNIQ Summer School in 2015, which is targeted at Year 12 students from areas of the country with lower enrolment at the University of Oxford, and it’s something I would recommend wholeheartedly to anybody who is considering applying to study here. I spent a week with some of the most like-minded and interesting young people I’ve ever met, and they were all from a similar region to me – it gave me the motivation to give myself a chance and apply to Oxford. It turns out that I got in!
What’s more, during the Summer School I stayed in accommodation at Lady Margaret Hall, which happens to be where I am studying now! This is one of the most progressive colleges in Oxford (it was initially opened in order to give women an education at Oxford, since none of the other colleges would allow women to study), and it has taught me that Oxford is not just a city full of posh stereotypes, and is in fact a very diverse and exciting place if you look in the right places.
Of course, I can only write from my own experiences, studying French and Linguistics at Lady Margaret Hall, but hopefully I can give some insight into life at Oxford and potentially encourage those of you who are totally capable to give it a go and apply.
Firstly, there is a plethora of information about applying and interviews at Oxford available all over the internet and elsewhere so I will keep my advice short and sweet: pick something you love if you’re going to apply to Oxford. It’s not a myth that it’s hard work – I’m writing a minimum of two essays each week usually – so you need to be doing something that you are passionate about, or you’ll end up burning yourself out and hating your time here. The tutors are looking for passion when they interview you, so if you’re only applying because you’re good at the subject/because you’ll earn loads of money when you finish, they’ll probably be able to tell, and you’ll miss out on your chance to study at Oxford. It is such a brilliant opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, so don’t waste it trying to study something you’re not passionate about!
So – if you get your interview, your offer, and your grades – you’re in! At this time, you get assigned two ‘college parents’. This is essentially a peer support system in which a second year student doing the subject you’re about to study will become your ‘college mum’ or ‘college dad’ (I know it’s strange but it is quite sweet and it’s a system that works – you instantly have a student who’s studied there for a year and can answer any questions you have straight away!).
Initially, moving from a small, industrial town like Scunthorpe to a picturesque city full of tourists was slightly terrifying! I wrote an article on the feeling of being stuck between two very different ends of a spectrum for one of Oxford’s student newspapers which you can find here: http://cherwell.org/2017/04/30/becoming-a-metropolitan-through-life-in-slow-motion/. However, the nature of studying a degree at Oxford does mean that you find that ‘home’ feeling very quickly. The college system means you have a base point, and this has definitely become like a second home to me. Most of the time, everybody knows each other (this is the case for my Hall at least), and walking through the Hall you’ll be able to say hello and have a quick chat. The long journey down back to university after visiting home sometimes throws me off and it takes me a couple of days to re-acclimatise to city life, but Oxford isn’t a city in the way that London is – it’s nowhere near as built up, and it has a real sense of age and history. My tutors also made a big effort to make sure I was comfortable, and I always have my French tutors to turn to if I’m struggling at all – whether it’s academically or otherwise.
There are so many kinds of experiences that I’ve had since coming to university, going to student-run plays, having cocktail nights, heading out to one of Oxford’s clubs – that I’d probably take up too much of your time, so I decided that I’d use some pictures from the last year to show you what kind of life I have at Oxford.
- Lady Margaret Hall is a very animal friendly college – our Principal, Alan Rusbridger, has two pugs that regularly visit, and this little white pup is Archie, one of the LMH staff’s dogs! He comes for walks in the grounds (which are magnificent, by the way) and is extremely friendly, so if any of us are having an essay crisis, cuddles are an option!
- At Oxford, there are lots of themed parties and people generally put in the effort to make a good costume!
- Mock exams at Oxford are, for some unknown reason, called Collections – you normally have them at the beginning of every term once you have some subject matter to revise. They’re just the same as mocks and they’re genuinely just there to make sure you feel comfortable with the stuff you’re doing in an exam condition, and to see if there’s anything you need to work on before the real thing. This picture documents one of my very fondest memories – we’ve just finished our Trinity Term collections (which are the last ones before the real thing so they were quite important) and we spent the evening chilling outside in the sun with rum and snacks to celebrate!
- Student life is pretty normal at Oxford – on Eurovision night we had a get-together to watch!
- This is a picture documenting one of Oxford’s traditions – Mayday! You basically stay up all night on the last day of April and then sing carols (if you want) on Magdalen Bridge at 6am.
- Lastly, my favourite memory ever from this year – the end of exams! One of Oxford’s best traditions is ‘trashing’. Basically, you get stuff thrown all over you when you finish your exams! For your first exam, you wear a white carnation to show that it’s your first – all the middle ones then have a pink carnation – for your last one, you wear a red one, and when you walk out of your last exam, all targets are set on the people wearing red carnations. People have all sorts thrown over them – flour, eggs, shaving cream, even beans and cat food. Thankfully, I only got powder paint and champagne!