Student Blog: Diving into the unknown

1000019940.jpgYou might have heard many people say this: I would never have believed you if you told me that I would be studying Biology at Oxford University five years ago. But I still feel the need to start with this. I was born in Romania and I grew up there until I was over 13 years old. Moving to the UK was an abrupt turn of events in my life and happened so quickly. Whilst my family moved so me and my sister could apply to a UK university, Oxford was not at all in sight. However, after only two terms at Brasenose, I cannot feel more at home here.

It would be a lie to say that adapting to a new country, language, friends, etc. was not extremely hard. I had to wait months until I was allocated to a school, only to stay there for a couple of months before moving to another. We moved houses three times in four years, all in the middle of a global pandemic. However, it is true what they say: what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. Going through tough times and overcoming challenges is how you show yourself that you can handle hard things, so in the future will become more resilient and learn to trust yourself. And I believe learning to trust yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can have.

This has, I believe, made my move to Oxford less scary. I knew I have overcome this challenge before. But I can still remember how I felt uneasy about it and can sympathise with who might feel the same. I think what I was most worried about was making new friends. But honestly, this was the easiest part with Brasenose as Oxford’s ‘friendliest college’. Although I am an introvert, I cannot agree with it more. You become immersed in an experience that is new to another 100+ people your age, and the environment here makes social bonding so much easier than you might think. You truly become a community, which (I might be biased) I believe does not happen in all colleges. I love that it is small enough that you bump into people in the Quad all the time and end up having extended unplanned chats, but large enough that is not suffocating.

I am theoretically not a fully international student, as I took my GCSEs and A levels here, but I have only lived in the UK for 5 years and English is not my first language. Therefore, I cannot speak on what the experience might be as an international student, however, as a non-British person I can recognise the potential fear of stereotypes and discrimination, especially as an Eastern European. This is not the case. Oxford, and especially Brasenose, are welcoming and inclusive, celebrating the diversity of its students and promoting this message too. Our college has dedicated support for International students, there is a Diversity and Equality committee along with societies at the University level dedicated to specific nationalities and identities.

As term time can become quite busy, it is easy to get stuck in all the work you could be doing. This is why scheduling time for social activities and things that make you happy is so important. Things like a weekly coffee catch up, walks or movie nights with your friends can be a time for you to wind down but also gives you things to look forward to throughout the week. You can sign up to so many sports and societies to escape the monotony that might set in sometimes. Plus it is a great way to make friends that you will see weekly and bond over a common interest.

A couple of times a term there are also bigger events like the Christmas Ball which lets you experience the more sophisticated Oxford lifestyle. This is the perfect opportunity to dress up and enjoy socialising and dancing with your friends in a gorgeous venue. And of course take many pictures. I also really like joining at least a couple of formal dinners a term. These are fancier dinners, which have three courses and that you dress up slightly for, whilst wearing your gown. There are candles lit and Brasenose-branded napkins and 2 sets of cutlery. It sounds more intimidating than it is, as the environment is very relaxed actually. But is a great way to enjoy a finer dining experience at a reasonable price and appreciate a more polished atmosphere.

When you get here having studied a broader range of subjects before, and are now narrowing down to one it will feel odd at first. It will feel like you start to be defined by what you study, as your whole day revolves around it. You become fully immersed in it, and the people you will naturally spend a lot of time with are studying the same thing. But when you get used to it, you begin to wonder how other people around you study other things. It becomes second nature to you to think like a Classicist, Medic, Geographer, etc. And I guess that is the point they are trying to get you to. It is not only that you learn new content. You also learn how to think, which is, in my opinion special to Oxford.

I didn’t relate to people that have been passionate about their subject since they were a child. My choice to study Biology came only in Year 12. I would always switch between what I wanted to pursue, from Fashion, Media Studies, Geography and Spanish. I did not even plan on taking Biology for A-level. From the sciences, I always preferred Chemistry, but I took Biology because my friends were taking it. I am forever grateful for my decision though. And that is not to say that you should choose Biology at all, but to highlight that you don’t need to have it figured it out in Year 9 and have been fascinated about what you apply for since you were born. All that matters is that you are enthusiastic to study it now, and that will show.

The unique tutorial system in Oxford is one of my favourite parts of the course. Instead of just sitting in lectures and labs with many questions and ideas, you get to discuss them with an expert in your subject in a cosy environment. Plus, your tutors really get to know you as a person, as well as academically. They are understanding and kind, but will also encourage you to achieve your best.

So far, my first year has been more enriching than I would have thought. Personally, socially and academically it taught me so much and offered me so many memories and skills. As students we always joke that time here seems to fly by, but when you look back and realise how many things have actually happened, it also seems like you’ve been here for a lifetime. It is true- time flies when you are having fun.

Diana Gusta, first year Biologist

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