Category Archives: Student life

New Year, New event!

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is delighted to announce a brand new event for the 2023/24 academic year – a Beginners’ Languages Taster Day!

Alongside our usual Modern Languages Open Day (which will take place on Saturday 11th May), this year we will be running an event dedicated to our beginners’ languages courses. This new event offers students from UK secondary schools in Year 12 or equivalent an opportunity to gain greater insight into our beginners’ languages degree programmes at Oxford. Students in Year 11 who are starting to consider their options for university are also welcome to attend.

The Taster Day will take place on Saturday 2nd March in our main Faculty teaching spaces – the Taylor Institution Library and 47 Wellington Square. After an information and Q&A session in the morning, students will have the chance to attend taster sessions in two of our beginners’ languages.

Photo taken from our Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

The following languages will be represented at the Taster Day, with academics and current undergraduates present to provide further information about the course(s) and to answer students’ questions:

  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Czech (with Slovak)
  • Modern Greek
  • Polish

The provisional event programme can be found here.

To register for the Taster Day, students should fill out this form by 10am on Friday 23rd February so we know who to expect at the event. Please note that spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and the form will close once our maximum capacity has been reached.

We are also pleased to be able to help students who are in need of additional financial support with reasonable expenses such as travelling to and from Oxford for the event. There is a space to include this information in the registration form.

Photo taken from our Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Our beginners’ languages courses offer an exciting and rare opportunity for students to engage with a new language and culture for the first time, or to pick up languages they studied at GCSE. The courses are challenging yet rewarding, with many designed to bring students up to A-level standard within the first year. Therefore, we would love to welcome students who are strong linguists and/or who are looking for a new challenge at University to this event.

As well as alongside a post-A-level language, most of our beginners’ languages can be studied in conjunction with subjects from the Humanities such as English, History, Linguistics, or Philosophy, for which applicants do not need to be studying a language to A-level or equivalent. With this in mind, we would also welcome students of Humanities subjects who are interested in picking up a language at University.

For further inspiration and information, below are some links to content from our tutors and undergraduates about why taking a language from scratch is so worthwhile:

  • Blog post Why study Czech?
  • Video – Branching Out: Picking up a language from scratch
  • Video – Studying German for Beginners at Oxford:

We look forward to seeing you on 2nd March!

UNIQ Applications still open

Every year UNIQ helps change the lives of young people, helping them to get into Oxford and other highly-selective universities. Apply now to take part!

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is the University of Oxford’s access programme for UK state school students. It prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities. Every year more students from diverse backgrounds get offered places at Oxford with help from UNIQ.

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be offering courses for French, Spanish and German again this year, all of which include the opportunity to taste two beginners’ languages.

UNIQ offers:

  • online support through the application process
  • a residential at an Oxford college for most participants
  • a trip to an Oxford open day for another 250 participants

UNIQ is completely free: accommodation, meals, academic courses, social activities, and travel are all included.

Every year students use their experiences on UNIQ to help inform their university choices and to make successful applications. UNIQ students who apply to Oxford have a higher rate of success than other applicants.

How to apply

UNIQ prioritises state school students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other highly selective universities. UNIQ welcomes applications from:

  • Year 12 students from England and Wales in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
  • Year 13 students from Northern Ireland in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
  • S5 students from Scotland studying Highers or equivalent

We use criteria such as experience of being in care, eligibility for Free School Meals, and information associated with the area that you live in to prioritise who comes on UNIQ.

Find out more and apply here! Applications close at noon on 23rd January 2024.

My first term studying French at Oxford!

In our final blog post before Christmas, first year French & Philosophy student at St John’s College, Laurence, tells us all about his first term at Oxford – settling in, making friends, and exploring new literature… over to you, Laurence!

Laurence at Matriculation

I have finished my first term studying Philosophy and French at St John’s College, and what a rollercoaster it has been! Freshers’ week, matriculation [1], my first tutorial [2]… and all while making new friends and starting to feel at home in Oxford. I initially wanted to study Law but decided that I first wanted to explore French literature and culture, as it had been my favourite subject during A levels. It is not a decision that I have come to regret! I would recommend French at Oxford to anyone with a passion for languages and literature.

The French course at Oxford is varied and engaging, with something for everyone. The first year syllabus is perfect for helping students get a sense of what they might like to pursue in future years – in the space of eight weeks I studied French essays, tragedies, and poetry. These included Michel de Montaigne’s Des Cannibales (c. 1580) which sheds light on French attitudes to South American tribes, raising fascinating questions of religious politics, Gallic identity, and colonialism’s fallacious distinction between savage and civilised cultures. Montaigne also pioneered the form of the ‘essay’ itself and his later revisions and editions to the initial text demonstrate his attempts to grapple with complex subject matters. We touched on all these points and more in our classes and tutorials, which are supplemented by lectures in the beautiful Taylor Institution Library.

Another benefit of the course is the variety of subjects that can be combined with French: whilst I study philosophy, I have friends studying French and English, Arabic, German, and linguistics, to name a few. I think Philosophy and French is a great combination… in later years I will have the opportunity to read the philosophical works of Descartes, Sartre, Pascal, and Merleau-Ponty in their original French, as well as studying the philosophy of language.

Inside the Radcliffe Camera

On an average day in my week, I might wake up early and go to the Radcliffe Camera for at least an hour of work as it is my favourite study spot. After a couple of lectures or a tutorial and then some lunch, I might have a grammar or conversation class. I particularly enjoy these because I love speaking in French, and there is no better place to practise than with the patient, friendly native speakers that are employed at St John’s to help us improve. We have discussed topics as varied as the Bouquinistes (book sellers on the banks of the Seine in Paris) and the life of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, through presentations, debates, and games.  After dinner, my class might work on a translation together or do some reading in the college library. The collaborative element of language learning is really encouraged in the Oxford environment – tutors want us to test each other on vocab and speak French among ourselves wherever possible. You might even find a native French speaker in your college – I often test my speaking skills with my Canadian friend!

Finally, life at Oxford is not all about work. I enjoyed a languages ‘initiation’ party in college where second year language students encouraged us to dress up as figures from our personal statements. I came as Socrates, and one friend of mine donned his long, black wig as Madame Bovary! In short, life as a language student at Oxford has so much to offer…

Thank you Laurence for that excellent insight!

After a short break over Christmas, we’ll be back with more blog posts in the new year. For now, we wish you a restful and joyous festive period with loved ones. Bonne fêtes à toutes et tous!


[1] An Oxford ceremony that marks a student’s induction as a member of the university.

[2] A teaching format of a tutor and 1-3 students.

Exeter Plus

Exeter College’s flagship outreach programme, Exeter Plus, is now accepting applications!

Exeter Plus is a sustained contact programme for Year 12 students from non-selective UK state schools who want to find out more about the University of Oxford.

Exeter College

The programme combines in-person visits and with online sessions that run from March to September. The sessions start off as an introduction to Oxford and Exeter College, including tours and workshops. Later sessions delve into more detail about the Oxford application process and give the students the opportunity to explore topics related to the degree subject(s) they are interested in studying, including Modern Languages.

Throughout the programme, participants have the opportunity to speak with Student Ambassadors and Tutors of Exeter College, and to take part in mock tutorials enabling them to discuss the subject they would like to study at University with experts in that field.

Exeter College covers the travel costs upfront and offers free lunch to all participants. They also run in-person visits on Saturdays and virtual sessions out of school time.

Participants on the 2023 Exeter Plus programme

Previous participants in the programme have said:

Thank you for running such an insightful programme, the in person visits really do make a very good experience.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and allow me to meet some brilliant people who I intend to cherish for life.

If this programme is of interest to you or to any of your students, the application form can be found and completed here. The deadline for applications is Monday 8th January 2024 at 11am. 

If you have any questions, please get in touch: outreach@exeter.ox.ac.uk.

Apply to Study Beginners’ German!

Here at Oxford, the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages welcomes applications for German at all levels. This means that if you haven’t studied the language at A-level, you can still apply to study Beginners’ German as part of your degree.

Excitingly, 2023 marks the first year that prospective students can apply to study Beginners’ German as part of our Joint Schools degrees. This means that you can combine learning German from scratch with another of the following Humanities subjects:

  • Classics
  • English
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy

So, if you’re hoping to study one of these subjects, but are interested in learning a new language, why not choose Beginners’ German?!

Take a look at our brand new video below to learn more about studying German for Beginners at Oxford, and to hear about the experiences of our current students who have chosen this excellent option!

If students apply via the Beginners’ German route, they will sit the Language Aptitude Test, which forms part of the Modern Languages Aptitude Test (MLAT).

Students taking Beginners’ German will receive intensive language tuition during their first year and further targeted language support specific to their needs during their second year. From the start of their course they will have some teaching on narrative works together with the post A-level group, and they will be fully integrated from the start of the second year, with access to all the course options in linguistics, literature, film and culture.

During the course, Oxford’s tutorial system and small-group language teaching will enable students at all levels to receive the appropriate tuition for their needs, which will build on the knowledge they have already acquired.

You can learn more about German at Oxford here.

Some Reminders

Happy Wednesday all! After some technical difficulties last week (apologies if anyone had issues accessing the blog), we’re back with a couple of reminders about upcoming events for (prospective) Modern Languages students… have a read below!

N.B. The deadlines for applying/registering for these opportunities/events fall within the next week, so don’t hesitate to sign up now!

Wadham College’s Modern Languages Summer School

A Summer School class at Wadham College, 2022
  • When: Monday 21st August – Friday 25th August 2023 
  • Where: Wadham College, Oxford
  • What: Summer Schools are designed to give UK pupils studying in Year 12 a taste of what it’s like to be an undergraduate studying at the University of Oxford. Pupils will take part in an academic programme, live in College, meet student ambassadors studying at Oxford, and receive information, advice and guidance on applying to university.
  • Who: Year 12 French, German, and Spanish students from UK state schools
  • How to apply: Fill out this application form.
  • Deadline to apply: 5pm, Friday 5th May 2023
  • More information: You can find more information here and email the Wadham Access Team at access@wadham.ox.ac.uk with any questions.

Modern Languages Open Day

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns
  • When: Saturday 13th May 2023, 10.30am-4pm
  • Where: Examination Schools, 75-81 High Street, Oxford
  • What: Our Modern Languages Open Day will offer an overview of our Modern Languages courses and a general Q&A for prospective students in the morning, with individual language sessions and a parents’/guardians’/teachers’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. 
  • Who: The Open Day is aimed primarily at Year 12 students and their parents/guardians/teachers, but Year 11 students who are starting to think about university study are equally welcome to attend. 
  • How to register: Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here.
  • Deadline to register: Bookings will close at midnight on Wednesday 10th May 2023.
  • More information: You can view the full event programme here and contact the Faculty at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk with any questions.

We look forward to seeing you at these exciting events over the summer – don’t forget to apply/register ASAP!

Study Days for days!

Following our recent post about Modern Languages Study Days at St John’s College and Christ Church, we’re delighted to bring you news of another Study Day for budding Modern Languages students – this one is hosted by our lovely colleagues at St Catherine’s College AKA St Catz!

Academic Study Days are a great opportunity for students in Year 12 to spend a day exploring a specific academic area at St Catz, meet with some current students, experience a taste of academic teaching, and enjoy lunch in the dining hall.

St Catherine’s College (St Catz), Oxford

St Catz are running their Modern Languages Study Day on Wednesday 31st May, 10.30am-4.15pm.

Students attending this exciting Study Day will have the opportunity to sample a range of languages that are available at the University of Oxford. As part of this day, students will be able to choose two language sessions to participate in from a choice of:

  • Post A-Level Spanish,
  • Post A-Level French,
  • Beginners’ Czech, and
  • Beginners’ Italian.

    All students will also have the opportunity to participate in a Linguistics taster session.
You can apply to attend here!

St Catherine’s College’s Academic Taster Days are all free to attend and open to all Year 12 students (or equivalent), with places being allocated on a first come, first served basis. Please complete this form to register to attend one of the events.

Modern Languages Summer School Opportunity

Calling all Year 12 French, German, and Spanish students from UK state schools – an exciting opportunity awaits!

Wadham College are running their annual Modern Languages Summer School in Oxford from Monday 21st August – Friday 25th August 2023 . This is a wonderful opportunity for Year 12 students who are interested in pursuing a degree in languages to get a feel for life at university and at Oxford more specifically.

A Summer School class at Wadham College, 2022

Pupils will engage in a seminar series led by Wadham’s language tutors, including language classes in their selected language of study (French, German, or Spanish) with opportunities to try other languages as beginners (including German, Portuguese, and Russian). Students will complete an assignment on a main topic with feedback from tutors. Pupils will also be able to receive support from current undergraduates and from the College on making successful applications to top universities.

Why attend a summer school?

Summer Schools are designed to give UK pupils studying in Year 12 a taste of what it’s like to be an undergraduate studying at the University of Oxford. Pupils will take part in an academic programme, live in College, meet student ambassadors studying at Oxford, and receive information, advice and guidance on applying to university.

Students talking to a Wadham Student Ambassador, taken from Wadham College’s website

Summer Schools are completely free. Accommodation and meals are provided by the College. Wadham will also provide financial support to pupils to cover their travel costs.

Wadham College is delighted to be able to run these events in-person allowing participants the best experience of life at the university. The feedback from last year’s Summer Schools was hugely positive with over a third of participants subsequently securing offers to study at the university.

After the summer school I am much more confident that I would fit in at Oxford and feel like I am more ready to move away from home

– Summer School participant, 2022

If you are interested, please apply here by the deadline of 5pm on Friday 5th May 2023. You can email the Wadham Access Team at access@wadham.ox.ac.uk with any questions.

Eine Reise nach Berlin

In this week’s blog postcurrent German and Linguistics student, Emma Davis, talks about her time in Berlina recent trip funded by her college. Over to you, Emma!

Thanks to the travel, research and study grant available at my college (St Hilda’s), I had the opportunity to spend a jam-packed 5 days in Berlin over the Easter vacation to supplement my German degree. This funding highlights that studying languages at Oxford University is about more than just passing your exams, but about gaining linguistic proficiency, confidence in foreign countries and a rich cultural understanding that widens your view of the world. Travel grants are available, often with priority placed on languages students, at many of the Oxford colleges so it is important to research on your college’s website to see what is offered and how to apply.

In my opinion, there are four must-dos if you are planning a trip to Berlin… Firstly, make the most of the tours on offer. On the second morning of the trip, we embarked on a 3-hour walking tour which allowed us to get our bearings and helped me to link all the historical and architectural facts I have learnt about Berlin across the course of my German studies. Visiting the Reichstag building is another non-negotiable. Seeing the glass dome, the inscription above the entrance (‘Dem deutschen Volke’) and the artwork inside (‘der Bevölkerung’) was both interesting and powerful as these features symbolise the importance of democracy to Germany today. My favourite day of the trip was spent just 45 minutes outside of the city centre, in Potsdam. Sanssouci Palace – the summer residence of Prussian King Friedrich the Great – was stunning in the sunshine and provided excellent German audio guides with a long but clear explanation about each room which was enjoyable to listen to. Furthermore, techno clubs are seen as an integral part of Berlin’s cultural scene, to the point that some DJs have campaigned for them to receive Unesco World Heritage Status. After being questioned on the door (the clubs in Berlin do this to increase their exclusivity), we made it into Tresor and had a great night…and morning – the techno scene doesn’t really get going until 3am!

Reichstag – German Parliament Building. Photo courtesy of Emma Davis.

A few misconceptions I had before I travelled to Berlin were that most people would speak back to you in English, the dialect would be difficult to understand and that vegetarian food options may be few and far between. However, everyone that I approached spoke to me in German and I didn’t encounter any difficulties with the dialect. Moreover, there were countless vegan/veggie food options to try, including a twist on the traditional Currywurst!

East Side Gallery Mural. Photo courtesy of Emma Davis.
Brezhnev and Honecker – East Side Gallery. Photo courtesy of Emma Davis.

Berlin is a city full to bursting with museums and during my week there I explored the German Spy Museum, Humboldt Forum, the Jewish Museum, and East Side Gallery. The Spy Museum is slightly less well-known than the destinations on Museum Island but is an engaging multimedia museum which walks visitors through the entire history of German espionage. For me, the most interesting part was listening to audio recordings of Germans who were involved in creating the Enigma code. The Humboldt Forum, considered the German equivalent of the British Museum, contains a thought-provoking exhibition responding to the question of whether colonial countries should return looted artefacts to their original owners or whether they should be displayed in places like the Humboldt Forum. This forces people to consider their country’s colonial history (incidentally, one of my favourite German words is die Vergangenheitsbewältigung which means ‘coming to terms with the past’). The Jewish Museum educated me on not only the extensive persecution that Jewish people have faced throughout the ages, but also the successes of many Jewish people, for example in the Weimar Republic. Finally, East Side Gallery is not a gallery in the conventional sense but rather a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall that is painted in countless murals, many with political messages relevant to the reunification of Germany.

To see even more of Berlin, I walked from the Brandenburg Gate, down Unter den Linden and past the Tiergarten to reach the Victory Column, which is 60m tall with a 360-degree view of the city. Another option for an incredible view is the Television Tower, which stands at 368m tall with a viewing platform 203m up.

Berlin’s Television Tower. Photo courtesy of Emma Davis.

I had a fantastic week, would highly recommend Berlin as a travel destination and am very grateful to my college’s travel grant for this opportunity.

Modern Languages Open Day – Book Your Place now!

It has been wonderful to meet so many students at our language-specific open days over the past few weeks. Building on this, we are delighted to be able to welcome prospective students to Oxford for our Modern Languages Open Day on Saturday 13th May, 10.30am-4pm. The event will be held at the Examination Schools, located on the High Street.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

This event is a fantastic opportunity for students who are interested in learning more about our language courses, or who are still considering their options, as this Open Day will cover ALL of our languages: French, German*, Spanish, Italian*, Russian*, Portuguese*, Modern Greek*, Czech*, and Polish*. Most of our Joint School degree subjects will also be represented at the event.

*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. From this year’s admissions cycle, students can also apply to study Beginners’ German with our Joint Schools subjects (e.g. English, History, Linguistics etc.) for the first time.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Our Modern Languages Open Day is aimed primarily at Year 12 students and their parents/guardians/teachers, but Year 11 students who are starting to think about university study are equally welcome to attend. The Open Day will offer an overview of our Modern Languages courses and a general Q&A for prospective students in the morning, with individual language sessions and a parents’/guardians’/teachers’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. You can view the full event programme here.

Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 10th May 2023. Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.

We look forward to seeing lots of you in May and welcoming you to Oxford!