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Student @ The University of Oxford

We know every university experience is different, but also it is always useful to hear from former and current students studying your ideal course, or at your top-choice university. To this end, we have pooled ideas from our current Elite IB office team, who have provided their best recollections of a day in the first-year life of…

Tim is the Founder and Director of Elite IB Tutors. Tim completed the IB at Antwerp International School in 2005 obtaining 44 points and went on to obtain an MEng from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 2009. Tim studied engineering, here is a rough outline of a normal day during his first year at university… 

Arriving at Oxford, I only knew a couple of people there, and so really didn’t have much of an idea as to what life there might be like. I was very pleasantly surprised. On a non academic level, I was surrounded by like-minded people, full of energy, eager to learn make new friends and get their hands dirty in all kinds of societies. The Engineering Department serves the entire university, and the beauty of Oxford is that through the collegiate system you make a very close group of friends from your college, as well as friends through your department.

The Engineering Course is a ‘general’ engineering course, meaning the first year is common to all schools of engineering, and you can start to specialise from your second year onwards.

First year is difficult, but not impossible. An average week might see 8 hours of lectures, 4 hours of lab work and 2 hours of tutorials with associated preparation time. Unlike school, a lot of my work actually took place on weekends as there was so much going on during the week. Lab-work is one of the main motivators for students studying engineering, and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll get involved in a wide range of labs, from designing concrete bridges to programming a small helicopter, using programs like SimuLink and MATLAB. Your tutorials will typically be with your college tutors, often set within the college walls, so there is a good mix of time at the department and time within your college environment. Lectures are at the department, and start relatively early. You’ll make friends with the other science students at breakfast as most of the humanities students don’t crawl out of bed until after 11!

Terms are short, only 8 weeks, meaning your first year technically has more weeks of holiday than actual course time. Of course, many students choose to stick around after ‘8th week’ to continue to study, though different colleges will have different rules about staying on in your room after term time.

First year exam (Prelims) take place in 7th or 8th week of Trinity term. Although you technically only need to pass (your first year grades don’t count towards your final degree) it is in your interests to do well, you might do well enough to become a scholar and wear a longer gown than your peers but mainly it means you won’t have to do too much work over the summer.

Following his completion of his GCSEs in the British School in the Netherlands, and his IBs in UWC S.E. Asia, he went on to attain a First Class honours in his MChem Chemistry in the University of Oxford. Wei Hao then completed his DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, also at Oxford.

As an undergraduate chemist, a lot of your week will be taken up by compulsory lectures, labs and tutorials. Most weekdays will have three lectures, from 9am to 12am. There are also usually two laboratory days a week, which rotate between Organic, Inorganic, and Physical. These usually run from after lunch to the end of the afternoon/early evening.

You will also generally have one or two tutorials in your college a week with your tutors- these would be scheduled at various times during the day/week, dependent on your tutor’s schedule. Taking all this into consideration, this would mean 3 to 4 full days a week. Adding in time taken to do assigned reading and assignments for tutorials, a Chemist’s schedule is a relatively full one!

However, you do generally have evenings to yourselves and we have always managed to find/make time for various university sports/social clubs, regular nights out starting at the college bar and ending in some student club or other, and/or early morning outings on the river with the boat club.