St Louis Grammar School
Promoting Excellence, Endeavour and Empowerment

Gifted & Talented – Year 13 pupil Rian Patterson enjoys Oxford Residential

9 Sep 2015

At the end of last year, some of my teachers nominated me to attend a residential trip in Oxford University (I know, Oxford!).  This involved a two night stay in Oxford’s student resident halls, whilst getting a feel for the university in terms of what it would be like to study there.

Myself and the Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator, Miss McCann left Northern Ireland early on Monday 29th June with a few other pupils from Northern Ireland.  We flew into Gatwick and then began our two our coach journey to Oxford (good job I brought a packet of Digestives)!

After a bit of retail therapy, we went to the university to register and got our rooms.  I stayed in the ‘New College’ campus at Oxford.  The only word I can use to describe it is ‘wow’. It was really old style and castle like. The scenery at the campus was very aesthetically pleasing – lots of greenery and beautiful architecture surrounded us.  Not only that but we also enjoyed tremendous weather.  It really was like something out of a film. 

On the Monday evening we were invited to a ‘Welcome Session’ where we were given an overview of what the residential would involve.  We were given some information talks on applying to Oxford. It was interesting to hear current Oxford students talking about their application process – the kind of information they included on their personal statements and about the interviews they participated in.

Dinner preceded the information talk.  I have to admit the dinner was better that what would be expected from most restaurants. Following dinner, we were given some more information and had the opportunity to hear about current students’ experiences at Oxford so far.  They obviously work hard but love every minute of it also.  To finish our first evening of the residential , some of the students organised a quiz in the Common Area.  It is safe to say that my team were not going to get any special mentions – I think there is a few areas we could brush up on!

On the next morning, we had a fully cooked breakfast and made our way to St Catherine’s College – another campus at Oxford, within a short walking distance of New College. There, we branched into small pre-selected groups for the subjects we had nominated ourselves for.  I had chosen to attend the taster lectures and tutorials relating to Law.  At the Law lectures / tutorials, the lecturers gave us an overview of what Law in Oxford involved and then we were given some independent research to carry out in the library. I was given a case to study in the library and when we met again later as a group, we had to discuss it and give our view on it.  This really threw us into the deep end but it was great. 

At Oxford University, the style of teaching is much more personalised than other universities. Tutorial groups are always small so there is no opportunity for students to fade into the background.  Whilst there, I got a real sense that the lecturers are really passionate about what they do – this is contagious and inspirational! I was surprised at the friendly, relaxed atmosphere at Oxford.  I did not feel homesick or out of place once.

At the end of our lectures and tutorials, we had a question and answer session with the current students at Oxford.  The students answered a lot of our questions and brought laughter and entertainment into it also.  The answer to one question that surprised me was "How many of you went to a private school?” Out of the ten students who were speaking to us, only one went to a private school. 

To finish the evening, we had dinner and went for a walk through the city of Oxford itself.  It is a beautiful place, not overly big but homely instead.  It has lots of historic buildings, which give the city lots of character but also has many modern touches.  It is also only a short journey from Oxford to London and there are lots of transport links to choose from. 

Although it might seem like I only brought home a few souvenirs, I came home with much more, including a few changed perceptions.  Before I went to Oxford, I assumed that in order to get into the university, that students had to consistently achieve 100% in all of their tests and that it would be a different calibre of people who studied there. However, I learned that it quite the opposite – the students who study there are those who are eager, work hard and are passionate about their subject.

My advice to you is that if you are ever offered the opportunity to go to Oxford city or the university itself, do not pass it up.  It is a timely, once in a lifetime experience and has totally changed my view on the university and those students who go to it.  What I have gained from it is the knowledge that nothing is impossible. Oxford is within our potential – we just have to realise it.     


Rian Patterson



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