The Mystery of the Oxbridge Interviews

So my dear readers, the long-awaited moment finally arrived – an interview at Oxford to read English Literature and Spanish at Lady Margaret Hall College. The good thing about doing a gap year is that it gives you a relatively blasé feeling towards most things, and I have to admit that I was less nervous about the interview than I was about travelling to Oxford by myself. The journey involved a flight from Seville to Gatwick, a train from Gatwick to Reading, then Reading to Oxford, and then somehow finding my way to the right college from the train station. Not to mention that I had to find somewhere to buy an English sim card for my phone to avoid a repeat of the terrifying experience of my last trip back home when I was stranded ALONE and without ANY MEANS OF CONTACTING ANYONE. My mum had thought it would be prudent to send me an English sim card in the post so that I would have one before I came to England……of course, it didn’t arrive in time. Even the post is late in Spain!!

In preparation for the artic temperatures that are currently bracing the United Kingdom (a good 10 degrees lower than in Seville), I packed the 3 fluffiest, warmest, wintery-ist jumpers I had, and also woolly socks, my hot water bottle, a large scarf and some gloves. Consequently, it was a rather snug fit into my hand-luggage-sized suitcase. And this is where the first issue came from. Upon going to the gate to board the flight I was asked to check if my bag fitted into the thing they have to measure bags………..uh-oh. We could both tell it wasn’t going to fit what with the rather puffy front (jumpers, jumpers and more jumpers). Not to be defeated, and more so that I wouldn’t have to pay $70 to put it into the hold (!!!), I set about re-arranging my bag. I removed one hoodie which I carried, and also my little bag, which I wore and then hid under my coat, as EasyJet is very strict about only having the ONE bag. I then did some very (un)dignified pushing and shoving to the amusement of the entire queue behind me. They were all busy laying bets on whether or not it would fit. I finally managed to cram the stupid suitcase into the holder but one of the wheels was still poking out the top. This, apparently, meant that the bag would absolutely in no way whatsoever fit into the overhead storage. Cue some more shoving/sitting on the suitcase/swearing under my breath, and I finally got the second wheel in as well. I was now more worried that I would never get the damn bag out again! Finally convinced, the air-hostess allowed me through, by which time I was at the back of the queue and so then had to deal with the task of actually finding a place to put the bag, which I had tried to avoid by being at the front of the queue! Not the best start. Feeling rather stressed, I finally collapsed into my seat, whereupon the man next to me said “So you managed to get it to fit then, love?”. HA. HA. HA.

Thankfully the rest of the flight passed without a problem. I managed to find my way to the train station and catch the right train to Reading. However, it was running 15 minutes late and so I missed my connection to Oxford. Thankfully, there are trains every 10 minutes or so from Reading to Oxford, so I just jumped on to the next one, and began a game of ‘Spot the Oxbridge Interview Candidates’ – that slightly nervous-looking adolescent travelling alone. To be on the safe side, I took a taxi to the college, but unfortunately arrived 10 minutes after dinner had ended. Typical. The lack of dinner was made up for by the impressive breakfast the following morning though J Overall, the food is very decent, and there is coffee, hot chocolate or (most importantly) TEA available at all times. Lady Margaret Hall itself is a beautiful college. It is situated a little further out from the town centre – about a 15 minute walk – next to the University gardens. This gives it a lovely green feeling, and coupled with the stunning red brick and impressive columns, the college has a great ambience.

As I am applying to the joint school of English and Modern Languages I had two interviews – one for English and one for Spanish. My first one was English at 11:30 on Wednesday. The runners (2nd year students who help out) managed to get confused and instead of giving me the poem to look at 20 minutes before the interview, thought that that was when the interview started. We sat outside the room for 10 minutes wondering why there was no-one there until the tutor turned up at 12:00, the time the interview actually started. Consequently, I was then given the poem in the interview without any preparation time, and so had to think on my feet a bit more. However, I think it went ok. They didn’t ask anything too ridiculous and I was able to answer everything, even if at one point it was with “ermm sorry I don’t remember”! It is hard to know how the interview went though as the tutors, although very lovely and friendly, really didn’t give anything away. They would all be very good at playing poker. I felt that the second interview, for Spanish, was a little more difficult. They asked some more challenging questions which I had to think a bit harder about, and the tutor was even more poker-faced. Therefore I wasn’t entirely sure if anything I was saying was even close to being what they might be looking for. Both interviews went by very quickly – probably a good sign!

At Oxford interviews, you are told to stay at the college for 2 or 3 days in case another college want to interview you. This would happen if the original college decided they don’t want to take you but think that another college would, or if the original college is not entirely sure, and so they send you to a different one for a second opinion and to help them decide (I think – it was all a bit confusing and mysterious….I’m not convinced all the tutors really understand how the process works themselves!). After finishing both interviews on Wednesday, I then potentially had all of Thursday and Friday without anything to do. As it turns out, I wasn’t called for an extra interview Thursday or Friday, so spent the day wandering around Oxford, doing some shopping and enjoying the Christmas market. Had I been called for another interview, it would have been at very short notice and I would have been informed via text if I wasn’t in the college (where there is a board with the interview times). I therefore spent the  entire two days checking my phone every 5 minutes and carrying my charger around with me in case of a sudden need to emergency re-charge. A fairly stressful experience. The whole process seems a little hectic and strange! But I guess it is a fairly monstrous task and the university wants to be sure that all candidates have the best chance of getting accepted. I’m not sure I could organise it any better!

 

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Oxford Christmas Market

 

I left Oxford on Saturday after spending some time with my parents who came down to Oxford for the day. My flight back to Seville was on Sunday morning – I managed to get the bag through this time! I am now back in Seville for 12 days before it is back home for CHRISTMAS!!!!! WOOO!!! I cannot express my excitement at the prospect of a cosy fire in the evenings, lovely winter walks, spending time with my family, SEEING MY CATS, my own wonderful bed, and of course, LOTS AND LOTS OF LOVELY TEA! While I was away, they turned on all the Christmas lights in Seville and my host family put up their Christmas tree. I am therefore already feeling very festive. Hopefully, Agu and I are going to make some Christmas biscuits next weekend!

Stay tuned for the festivities…

Besos, Katie xx

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