Student Blog: Brasenose Smiles

dan balloon 2I think it’s impossible for someone to mention Brasenose or Oxford without my breaking into a smile. Not an ear-to-ear toothy grin but a slight curling of the lips, the one your cousin makes when you mention the girl he likes. It’s involuntary and a consequence of all of the positive memories forged during my three years of studying here. So to read the rest of this post in the way it was intended, imagine it being spoken through the bearded smile of a 21 year old physics undergraduate.

The choice of subject was easy for me. Reading about quantum mechanics and special relativity set my heart on physics, and it was an employable enough subject that my brain agreed too. As was the choice of university. I was a determined sixth former and decided that I wanted to study at an Oxbridge university, and with my lack of desire to study the other science modules as part of Cambridge’s Natural Sciences degree, Oxford it was. Even the choice of college was fairly straightforward. Brasenose’s brilliant Schools and Publications Officer Joe Organ had visited my school and sent an email inviting us to the Open Day, so I visited with my parents. The welcoming atmosphere won me over, and the provision of accommodation for every year of my course won them over.

Despite the confidence with which I had made my decisions about university, I had some apprehensions before first coming to Brasenose. This was partially because I didn’t really know what studying at Oxford would be like. I didn’t know anyone who went to Oxford or Cambridge (I knew of people, but didn’t know them). I also wasn’t sure what studying at University would be like; I was the eldest child in my family and my parents didn’t study in the UK. Would I make friends? What are the people like? Would I miss home? Was I smart enough for Oxford? As a comprehensive educated, 2nd generation Bosnian immigrant from a London tower block, would I stick out like a sore thumb?

The apprehensions about the social life dissipated quickly during freshers week. Meeting the people in my year I soon realised that my peers at Brasenose were kind, interesting, and reassuringly normal. There’s a reason why Brasenose calls itself the friendliest college in Oxford. Needless to say, making friends was easy, and I spent so much time socialising it was impossible to miss home. My worries about sticking out also faded as I found making friends with people from a different background to mine an overwhelmingly positive experience. Going to school in London I had friends from all around the world but now for the first time I had friends from different parts of the UK. That said, one of my friends early in my first term pointed out that I had a slight Eastern European accent, which: 1 –was something I had never heard before, and 2 – now often crops up in my head whenever I speak. Only the doubts about my academic ability lasted longer than the first week. Having seen several of my friends fail to get in to Oxford, friends who I consider to be as academically gifted as me, I concluded that I must have somewhat fluked my way in. By the end of my first year, however, those doubts also vanished as I realised physics and I got on well together.

Physics is an intensely satisfying subject to learn because you can build mental models of how natural phenomena occur, with the safety of resorting to rigorous calculations if necessary. It is also a subject in which it is easy to tell that you are progressing: you understand something that you didn’t before, you are getting more questions correct in your tutorial work, etc. Furthermore, Brasenose is a great place to study physics because of the undergraduate community we have here. The second years have to give a short physics presentation to their tutors, which in other colleges can be dry one-on-one talks, but in true Brasenose fashion our tutor has made a social event out of it, naming it ‘pizza talks’. We also have a Christmas party and a summer drinks party, with regular trips to the pub too. This is reflective of Brasenose in general, as the continuous stream of social events ensures that you are never bored and that you can meet as many Brasenostrils as possible!

Beyond college and studying, Oxford is a fantastic place to get involved with extracurriculars. I was a committee member and regular participant of a debating society, and am currently one of the coordinators for Target Schools’ shadowing days. These shadowing days allow students from schools that are underrepresented at Oxford to shadow a current university student for a day, to see what studying at Oxford is like. The most valuable thing shadowing days offer is an opportunity for prospective students to talk to current students, to ask as many questions as they can and to hopefully remove any apprehensions about what it is like to study here. Moreover for a lot of school students the choice of college/university/subject is a difficult one and the days can help them decide what is best for them. Last year I mentored a local Year 10 student as part of IntoUniversity’s mentoring scheme, which aims to develop young people so that they can attend and succeed at university. To juggle these responsibilities I had to learn to be organised, and this is just one of the many ways Oxford has developed me as a person.

I thoroughly recommend Brasenose and Oxford as a place to study. What brings that smile to my face is the thought of all of the people I have met over my time studying at Oxford, the conversations and nights out I wished would never end, and the friends that I hope I have made for a lifetime. One day that smile may be yours too.

By Dan Kreso - 4th Year Physics Student

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