Category Archives: Studying at Oxford

Spotlight on Spanish: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695)

This week’s blog post is written by one of our wonderful student ambassadors, a finalist in French and Spanish. Enjoy!

Before coming to Oxford, if you asked me about feminism, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a lot other than about the suffragette movement and movements in the 1970s and 80s. However, one of the most rewarding and unexpected things that I have discovered since studying at Oxford is that feminism goes a lot further back than I had ever thought.

As part of my degree in Spanish, I had the opportunity to choose an ‘author paper’ that I would study over my second and final year. This is where you pick two authors and get to know a variety of their works in depth. Having enjoyed studying El médico de su honra by Calderón (a celebrated Spanish playwright) in my first year, I decided to pick a paper which focuses on the golden age (siglo de oro). I continued my studies on Calderón however, I was delighted to find that there was a female author on the syllabus (which is largely male-dominated as a result of contemporary attitudes of the time): Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Although her works are known to provide some challenges with sentence structure and philosophy, I can firmly say that I am glad I took these challenges on.

Sor Juana was born in Mexico and had a desire to learn from a young age. As a result of the misogynistic attitudes of the time, she was unable to attend school. Despite this, she begged her mother to attend but disguised as a male student yet it wasn’t enough. Sor Juana was educated at home and during that time, she learnt how to read and write in Latin by the age of three and in Nahuatl (an Aztec language), she became well-versed in philosophy and wrote an array of poems.

Sor Juana later entered the monastery of the Hieronymite nuns which allowed her to pursue her studies with few limitations. During that time, she amassed a huge collection of books and was supported by the Viceroy and Vicereine of New Spain. The Vicereine Maria Luisa Manrique de Lara y Gonzága, Countess of Paredes was a recurring subject of her love poetry.

One of Sor Juana’s most famous poems ‘Hombres Necios’ (You foolish men) was written in the 1680s. This poem is one of my firm favourites! Published in a society that was extremely patriarchal, this poem criticises the double standards that men imposed on women and advocates the need for women to have more agency in their day-to-day lives. These double standards affected her reputation, her (sexual) freedom as well as her prospects as she would be left in situations that she could not control.

To illustrate her case, Sor Juana makes a strong argument for how double standards imposed on women aren’t just a problem of her time. Through comparing Thaïs (an independent, educated and sexually free woman who often accompanied Alexander the Great) to Lucretia (a woman who was so committed to fidelity to her husband that she killed herself after being abused by another man), Sor Juana demonstrates how there is a double expectation placed on women: they are expected to be sexually free like Thaïs before and then should completely change and be like Lucretia after entering a relationship with a man.

Whilst I have only mentioned one of Sor Juana’s poems, there are so many others that I could have delved into! For anyone who wants to further their interest in women’s writing or feminist works, I would definitely recommend Sor Juana (even if you are not studying Spanish!). There are many accessible English translations of her poetry and works available which also explore other themes such as education, love and philosophy. If you want to learn more about a subject area in general, there are so many beautiful opportunities to do so through literature. Whether it is medieval literature, seventeenth century plays or modern day poetry, there is bound to be a topic or genre that will fascinate you. Whatever the language, there is something for everyone!

Testimonial: from Open Day attendee to current student!

On the blog this week, first-year student ambassador, Laurence, describes his experience of attending our Modern Languages Open Day in 2022, and how it led him to where he is today.

I feel so grateful to be where I am today, a student of Philosophy and French at St John’s College. My journey into university language study began at the Faculty Open Day in May of 2022, when I was in Year 12. A couple of months prior, I had woken up one day and decided that I could not graduate with a law degree at 21, start training for the world of work, and never broaden my horizons beyond that. French was my favourite subject at school, and I had a passion for literature and culture as well as a budding desire to travel. I switched my application preparation towards languages, and the Open Day was my first port of call.

As an Oxford Bursary recipient from a state comprehensive in Coventry, I remember feeling awe when I arrived with my mum at the Exam Schools, where we listened to a range of different talks. It was refreshing to talk to other young people who had a passion for languages: MFL learning in my school had suffered from a chronic lack of interest. I particularly enjoyed the variety of sessions at the Open Day, from talks on French specifically, linguistics, and Italian, another language I was considering. Talks from tutors were highly informative regarding the literature/language balance as well as studying a language with philosophy, with personal touches about their own research interests that could not be so easily gleaned from the university website. I loved the excitement in the atmosphere around the Open Day, even the sun was out on the High Street!

The Examination Schools in the sunshine at the 2022 Open Day
Photo by John Cairns

I decided that a languages degree was for me, and after further discussions with ambassadors (French and Philosophy is a great combination, they said), we headed home. I remember on the train we even met a woman whose daughter had just graduated in French, it seemed like a sign! I would certainly say that the Open Day stoked my interest in languages further and convinced me, through the emphasis on literature and culture as well as the sheer range of degree options available, that it was a better option than Cambridge or any other university.

Laurence with two other prospective students at the 2022 Modern Languages Open Day
Photo by John Cairns

I have now finished two terms as a student here, and the experience has been everything that the Open Day promised, and more. I believe that the tutorial system is especially well adapted for subjects like English and languages because both tutor and student can pore over the text together. I think the Faculty does well at advertising this as what sets Oxford apart from other universities. 

I have enjoyed much of the early modern content, including Montaigne and Racine, which may be the focus of my Authors Paper next year – although with the input of the philosophy side, Diderot and Pascal also sound tempting. I’m also excited to look into potential linguistics or cinema papers later in my degree. The language side of the degree has also been engaging: the expertise of my native speaker teachers has shown me a new way to reach fluency beyond learning cast iron grammar rules, namely a sensitivity to context, culture, and idiom.

I feel like I have personally travelled a long way since the Open Day, now a languages ambassador myself. Grateful for the opportunity to help others to discover languages too, getting to give back through this outreach work is the greatest privilege.

****

You can still sign up to attend our Open Day on Saturday 11 May! The programme and booking link can be found here. The deadline to register your place is 8 May – don’t miss out!

Reminder: Modern Languages Open Day!

It’s not too late to register your place at our Modern Languages Open Day at the beautiful Examination Schools (75 – 81 High St, Oxford) on Saturday 11th May!

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

This annual 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 the 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 – English, History, Philosophy etc. – will also be represented at the event.

*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. 

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.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

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. Tutors and current students from the Faculty will be available throughout the day to answer questions from prospective applicants and their companions.

*Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.

You can view the full event programme here.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Booking your place at this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 8th May 2024.

We look forward to welcoming you to Oxford in May!

Lincoln College Study Days

Lincoln College is delighted to announce another year of in-person Study Days for Year 12 students from UK state schools . These Study Days are designed to support students from non-traditional Oxbridge backgrounds who are on track to achieve high grades and potentially make an application to a selective university.

Lincoln’s Study Day programme is designed and delivered by academics and staff at the College in Oxford, with great opportunities to engage with tutors and current students. It will give prospective students a real flavour of life at Lincoln and what to expect from studying at Oxford University. It will also help them to develop relevant academic skills such as essay planning and critical thinking, and the admissions workshop and mock interview will help participants to make a competitive application to Oxford when the time comes.

Lincoln’s Modern Languages Study Days will take place on August 8th to 10th.

Accommodation will be provided free of charge, onsite, in Lincoln College rooms, alongside breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Dining Hall. The College can also offer support with travel via a reimbursement scheme.

To apply and see an outline of the programme, follow this link. The application deadline is Friday 24 May at 12 noon.

Modern Languages Summer School

Applications are now open for Wadham College‘s annual five-day Modern Languages Summer School. The residential will take place at the college, based in the centre of Oxford, from 19th to 23rd August 2024.

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. Wadham’s Summer Schools are free and the college will provide financial support to pupils to cover their travel costs.

We’re 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

For Modern Languages more specifically, 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.   

For more information and to apply, click here: Wadham College Summer Schools. Pupils should be studying French, German or Spanish at A-level or equivalent to apply. Applications close at 5pm on 3rd May.

If you have any queries, please contact access@wadham.ox.ac.uk

Study Day at New College

On Saturday 8th June 2024, New College will host a study day for Year 12 state school students who are interested in pursuing a degree at a Russell Group University in either:

  • Modern Languages
  • English Literature
  • A combination of the two
New College Front Quad

This cross-curricular study day will explore the following essay question:

“In reading the literary works of the past, to what extent should we judge them according to our own moral and literary standards?”

The study day will include academic sessions, an essay writing session, lunch in the dining hall, and a tour of the college.

Up to £100 in travel expenses will be paid for by New College.

Following the event, attendees will be encouraged to enter an essay competition which has a £500 cash prize.  In addition, £250 worth of books will be donated to the winner’s school library. 

In order to apply, you must be a Year 12 student in a UK state school or sixth form college.  You should also be considering a degree in either Modern Languages, English Literature or a combination of the two at a Russell Group University.  

You can find out more here and submit your application via this online form.

Applications close at midday on Wednesday 1st May 2024.

Modern Languages Study Days

On the blog this week, we take a look at the exciting Study Day opportunities for budding linguists coming up this summer!

Study Days are a great opportunity for prospective applicants to experience life as an Oxford student for the day. Study Days will always include taster sessions for the subjects which you are interested in studying at university, but often involve information sessions on admissions, a chance to talk to current undergraduates, and a tour of the College.

Study Days are free of charge with some colleges offering additional financial support to attendees. They are open to students at UK state schools, but places are sometimes prioritised by measures of socio-economic disadvantage.

We would very much recommend applying to any of the opportunities below!

Exeter College – Thursday 25th April

Each year, Exeter College hosts a series of subject days for Year 11 and Year 12 students attending UK state schools. These aim to provide tailored support for students interested in exploring a range of subjects at University level.

The Radcliffe Camera from Exeter College

The College’s Modern Languages Study Day will be taking place on Thursday 25th April.

You can register your interest here. The deadline to sign up is 5pm on Monday 18th March.

Balliol College – Monday 3rd June

Applications are now open for an in-person Modern Languages Taster Day at Balliol College in Oxford!

This event is designed for Year 12 students from UK state funded schools who are currently studying a language at A-Level or equivalent, and who intend to apply to study French, Italian or Spanish, or Modern Languages and Linguistics as a single or a joint-honours degree at Oxford University.

The Taster Day will include academic sessions, admissions information and a demonstration interview. You will have the opportunity to speak to tutors and current undergraduates. 

Balliol College chapel

To apply for a place at this event, please complete this form.

Please note, we will prioritise applications from disadvantaged students and from groups which are underrepresented at the university. Before submitting an application, please ensure you can attend the day in its entirety. This will be in-person at Balliol College in Oxford. 

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 17 May 2024.

St John’s College – Wednesday 12th June

St John’s College is pleased to welcome applications for our Year 12 Modern Languages Study Day. The Study Day is open to all Year 12 students currently attending a non-selective state-school in the UK.

Inside St John’s College chapel

What does the day involve?

  • Academic taster sessions led by Oxford Modern Languages tutors
  • Information on applying to, and studying at, Oxford University
  • A Q&A session with current Modern Languages students and tutors
  • A tour of St John’s College and lunch in Hall

To sign up, please complete the application form on our website. All events and resources are free to qualifying pupils. Travel grants are also available for eligible participants.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please do get in touch with us at access@sjc.ox.ac.uk.

Make sure you apply to these exciting opportunities before the deadlines!

Modern Languages Residential Opportunity

Oriel College is excited to be hosting four one-night Residential Programmes over the Easter holidays!

Their Modern Languages and Linguistics Study Day, aimed at students considering degrees in various combinations of Modern Languages or Modern Languages and Linguistics, is taking place on 25-26th March.

The programme is designed to support Year 12 students from non-selective state schools in the UK who are considering degrees at highly selective universities like the University of Oxford. Participants will experience subject sessions, applications workshops, and opportunities to work with academics at the University of Oxford.

All expenses (accommodation at Oriel, meals, and activities) will be funded by the college. Reasonable travel costs to Oxford to attend a residential programme will also be reimbursed.

Oriel College

Who can apply?

Residential Programme applicants must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • Currently in Year 12 at a UK state school
  • Predicted A-Level grades equivalent to the University of Oxford’s standard offer for the relevant course (see the university website for full details)
  • Interested in studying a degree level course in Modern Languages or Modern Languages and Linguistics.

Previous programmes have been oversubscribed, so applications will also be prioritised based on the following criteria:

  • Studying at a non-selective (comprehensive) state school
  • Studying at a school with limited history of progression to Oxbridge
  • Home postcode
  • Receipt of Free School Meals/Pupil Premium

Applicants are also welcome to notify the college of any other relevant personal circumstances in the sign-up form.

Apply now!

The application form is available here. The closing date for applications for is midnight on Saturday 9th March 2024.

If you have any questions about the programme, please email the Outreach Officer for Oriel College, Arron O’Connor, via outreach@oriel.ox.ac.uk.

BAME HUMANITIES STUDY DAY 2024 – APPLY NOW!

Following a successful four-year run, Oxford’s University College, Magdalen College, and the Faculties of History and Modern Languages are delighted to announce that the virtual BAME Humanities Study Day will return for 2024 on Thursday 4th April!

This event offers UK state school students with Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) heritage an exciting opportunity to engage with academic taster sessions from across the Humanities subjects, and also to access insight into Oxford student life and support with the admissions process.

This year, the day will open with a welcome and an introduction to the humanities subjects from current students followed by the opportunity to attend two humanities subject lectures. Students will learn more about the Oxford application process in our subject-specific admissions workshops. The day will conclude with a live student life Q&A where you will have the opportunity to ask your questions to current Oxford students from BAME backgrounds.  

Screenshot of the Q&A with undergraduates from the 2021 Humanities Study Day

For the academic lectures, students will be able to choose from the following subjects: ClassicsEnglishHistoryHistory of ArtModern LanguagesMusicAsian and Middle Eastern StudiesMusicPhilosophy or Theology. You will be able to specify your preferred subjects on the event’s application form below.

Last year, students chose to attend academic taster lectures on fascinating topics such as:

  • Myths and Counter-Myths: Roman Imperialism and French Colonialism in North Africa (Classics)
  • Orientalist painting and how to write it (Medieval & Modern Languages)
  • Popular Music: History and Interpretation (Music)
  • The Shock of the Nude:  Art, Science, and the Racial Imaginary in Modern China (History of Art)
  • The Spirituality of Black Lives Matter: The Enduring Truth of Black Liberation theology (Theology)
  • Mathematics, Magic and Mongols: the forces that shaped medieval Islamic astronomy (History)

Before attending the subject day, I had no prior ideas about attending Oxford, nor was I really interested. This was mostly because I thought Oxford was an unreachable place for someone like me, a coloured girl who does not come from a highly prestigious background, which I believed Oxford to be the opposite. Attending the study day made me realise Oxford is actually a very accessible and open place for someone of my background…

–  2023 Study Day participant

Eligibility Criteria

Students must be…

  • Currently in Year 12 (or equivalent)
  • Identifying as having Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME) Heritage 
  • Attending a UK state school (unless you have extenuating circumstances or meet several of the priority criteria listed below) 
  • If spaces are limited, priority will be given to students who meet one or more of the following: first generation in your family to attend university, have experience of being in care, are a young carer, are eligible for Free School Meals/Pupil Premium, are from an area of deprivation or area with a low rate of progression to university.

To sign up, complete this application form. If you are unable to attend live on the 4th April but would like access to the recordings and resources, then please still submit an application via the form. 

Applications will close on 25th February 2024. We cannot guarantee every applicant a place but are aiming to accommodate a large number of students.

If you have any questions about this event, please email us at outreach@magd.ox.ac.uk

MODERN LANGUAGES OPEN DAY – Bookings Now Open!

We are delighted to welcome prospective students to Oxford on Saturday 11th May for our annual Modern Languages Open Day. The event will be held from 10.30am-4pm 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 – English, History, Philosophy etc. – will also be represented at the event.

*All of these languages can be studied here at Oxford from beginners’ level. 

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. Tutors and current students from the Faculty will be available throughout the day to answer questions from prospective applicants and their companions.

*Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.

You can view the full event programme here.

Modern Languages Open Day 2022
photo (c) John Cairns

Booking your place at this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Bookings will close at midnight on 8th May 2024.

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