ACG Parnell College graduate Hope Sutherland is studying English Language and Literature at The University of Oxford. As she enters her second year, she updates us on life and the ‘horizon-expanding opportunities’ at one of the world’s top universities.
What is day-to-day life like at Oxford?
Busy. Due to the shorter eight-week terms there’s quite an intensive workload. My day fills up mostly with working through reading lists, writing essays, the odd tutorial or class, and the million-and-one extracurriculars that you tend to acquire by being in a university full of enthusiastic and proactive people. I love studying in some of the beautiful old libraries when I get the chance, and in the evening I’ll usually head back to uni accommodation to cook a meal with my friends.
What has most surprised/amazed you about Oxford?
Firstly, that people are human beings; that it’s okay to not be good at an aspect of your course, and that people spend time relaxing and doing nothing as they would at any other university. Applying from overseas meant that I had very little idea of what it would be like here.
I’ve also been surprised at how much I’ve learned that isn’t part of my degree – general knowledge in the form of current events, opinions, and coming into contact with other critical viewpoints of what goes on in the world.
How has Oxford changed your plans for the future?
One thing that I want to do in future is create a scholarship fund to help more international students study in the UK, particularly those students who are combining art and science in some form of interdisciplinary study. I think the steep fees are often a barrier to talented students studying overseas, and it would be great to change that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m excited by the way that careers are changing in the 21st century and I’m looking forward to doing a number of different things – exploring HR and management, working for a creative agency, as a teacher, doing further study, learning a language or starting up my own business. Ideally I’d like to do a combination of those things. For now, I’m studying a degree that I love.
What is your favourite course so far?
Within my degree I’ve chosen to specialise in older forms of English and more language-based courses, because they are all something quite unique to studying English at Oxford (we’re the only place that still teaches Old English in the original language to my knowledge).
I enjoyed looking at science and literature during my first-year paper on Victorian Literature, and I liked thinking about questions of translation and post-modernism in the paper on Modernism.
But if I were to pick one specific thing as a favourite subject, it would be the subject of one of the essays I wrote for my end-of-year exams. The question prompt was to do with rooms, and what people choose to put in their rooms. I got to combine all the ideas I’d studied over the year and found most interesting: ‘Thing Theory’, Orientalism, and the use of rooms as spaces of identity in literature. I applied the ideas to 1920s travel writing in China and (what was then) Rhodesia – it was a really fun combination of topics.
What has been the highlight of your first year?
Horizon-expanding opportunities or challenging academia aside, by far and away the incredible people I’ve met – especially my boyfriend. They’ve made Oxford feel like home.