Siobhan Mackenzie Hall
DPhil reading for Surgical Sciences, MCR Secretary 2022
Applying to Oxford is an incredibly exciting experience. Do not underestimate the confidence it has taken to get to this point, and never forget your application is a direct reflection of the many years of hard work and dedication culminated in one form. It can also become overwhelming, keeping up with all the requisite documents, letters and proposals and triple checking you have provided the correct information. On top of that, you will be asked to indicate a preference for a College. This is a non-trivial point as the College will form an integral part of your life and Oxford-student experience. The collegiate system contributes dramatically to the opportunities and networks Oxford has to offer, so be sure to devote time to this (fun!) part of the application.
While playing the lottery, and selecting ‘open choice’ is a perfectly safe bet – every College at Oxford has a lot to offer you and will provide a significant complement to your academic pursuits – there is something to be said for showing interest at a specific college. This choice is important, in my opinion, especially as a graduate student applying to Oxford for the first time. Moving to a new town / country is no easy feat and integrating into an existing student body in a busy city can make finding friends more tricky. The nature of graduate work is more solitary, and it can be easy to spend your entire university experience at your department. While productive, in the long term suboptimal considering there are many different people waiting to meet you and share their culture, experience, insight and knowledge! This is where a supportive graduate community comes in handy – an entire student body at the ready. Luckily for you, I have it on excellent authority that the St Hugh’s graduate community is lively, thriving and looking forward to welcoming new members, just like you.
Known as the MCR, (Middle Common Room), this graduate community and physical space can become a constant source of support, comfort, friends, and new-found family. St Hugh’s is home to an active and diverse community of high-achieving, dedicated students from a wide variety of subjects. Fair warning, your research envy will grow with each conversation! However, therein lies the beauty, you will be able to experience these far-out fields vicariously through your friends.
St Hugh’s College brings forth an impressive history and proud legacy upon which it continues to contribute. Established in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth (the niece of William Wordsworth). St Hugh’s offered a place of support for women who would otherwise not have been able to take advantage of all the University of Oxford has to offer. Built on an progressive foundation, the College has continuously strived for diversity and inclusion. While there are still some cracks and areas for improvement (and this can be said for all Colleges), the St Hugh’s of the 21st Century strives to provide a welcoming, supportive environment for all its students. This support comes in many forms, which I believe are going to make your time at Oxford even better.
As soon as you step into your new College for the first time, you will be introduced to the wonderful staff (see more here) and students that make up St Hughs. Freshers’ Week will provide an amazing range of activities – some familiar, some new, but always fun. This is also the first layer of foundation for the many, many friendships to follow. A foundation that will carry you through the long terms, short days and the mounting workload.
Do not fear, the fun doesn’t stop with Fresher’s Week and you will not be left to your own devices! Throughout the term there are plenty of activities to keep you on the go, help you unwind and motivate you when the work gets hard. Peer supporters and counsellors are a message away so you will never be without a kind ear and friendly face. The College also has many sports teams providing the opportunity to continue your sport, or try something for the first time! These activities are run by your fellow MCR members and become a welcome escape as the work mounts and making plans becomes a full time endeavour. All of these activities are food for the soul, and are suitable for all palettes -and if you’ll allow me to indulge in this metaphor a little longer, wholeheartedly fulfilling to complement your academics.
Nestled slightly further away from the centre of town (but not as far as people would have you believe), St Hugh’s offers open grounds, squirrels, resident cats, a wonderfully stocked library, excellent food and plenty of space for you to enjoy. Close enough to the action so you don’t miss out, but quiet enough that you can sleep when needed, St Hugh’s has a lot to offer you. You will be welcomed with open arms and find a space where you can be unapologetically yourself. Speaking from cherished experience, St Hugh’s is more than likely going to feel like home for you too.
Written in 2022