Former Carmel College student Andrew Dixon returned to the College this week. He’s heading back to Oxford to start the second year of his Law degree so Nicola, Head of our High Achievers’ Programme took the opportunity to quiz him about life at one of the most prestigious universities in the world!
How did you find the transition from Carmel to Oxford?
Well, obviously Oxford is very different, but in terms of community, there isn’t that much of a leap. Carmel is a particularly close knit college and because of this you have really good friendship groups, so actually moving to Uni wasn’t that hard. I’m not going to lie; everyone’s first week is tough but I settled in quite easily.
Some people might think that Oxford is just for people who are from wealthy families and have been privately educated. What is the mix of students actually like?
One of the good things about Oxford, in particular the college I go to, Merton, is that there are different people from all different regions of the country, all different religious backgrounds, different cultures and international students. So nobody has come in a clique, everyone is an individual, you’re all in the same boat and it’s much easier to make connections.
Have you got involved in any clubs and societies alongside your studies?
I am Vice President of our Political Society and I also hold a committee position in our Law Society. We entered the ‘Croquet Cuppers’, but sadly we were knocked out in the second round. We had fun competing though and will be much better next year!
We heard that you have been in Hong Kong for a month which sounds exciting! Was this part of your degree course?
Yes, I’ve just come back from Hong Kong. Our College offers this opportunity every year. The students who perform best in ‘Moderations’, which is the fancy word for exams, get invited to apply for a work placement over there. I was asked to apply and I got placed with a Barrister’s Chambers in Hong Kong. It was amazing!
So do you want to become a Barrister?
Yes, I believe so. Ultimately that would be the dream.
In any particular type of Law?
I’m still not entirely sure. I was always dead set on Criminal Law, but going to Uni and studying all different kinds, and then completing this Work Placement in Commercial Law, I am considering the other options available. I still think I will probably go into Criminal Law eventually though.
Are there any myths you can dispel about Oxford, for example, is it like living at Hogwarts?
Erm, well I guess appearance wise it is, as with any old building. There’s no magic, sadly and it’s certainly a lot more grounded and more normal than you might expect it to be.
Do you ever have to wear gowns for any events?
Yes, we wear gowns a fair bit actually. You have gowns for Matriculation (your entrance ceremony), for Graduation and we also wear gowns for exams. Also in the evenings at Merton, there are two meal times; the first sitting you don’t wear gowns but the second sitting is more formal so you have to wear one.
You live in the university halls so do you have to cook for yourself?
Well, the way it works, you are in halls but there are no catered or self-catered halls. You choose whether you turn up to the dining hall for meals or if you use the kitchens in halls to cook for yourself. It is very flexible. It works for everyone really. I advise going to the dining hall though because the meals are incredible!
Is Oxford a nice place to live?
Oxford is an incredible city. It is supposedly one of the biggest cities in the country but everything you would want and need is within a 10 minute radius. Oxford city centre is amazing. It’s potentially the most beautiful city I have ever been to and I’m putting that up there with the nice parts of London and Venice. It is gorgeous and has everything a student could want including a Primark and an Aldi!
Have you got any advice for students who are thinking of applying to Oxford?
The first one would definitely be apply! Anyone who’s vaguely considering it should put in an application. I couldn’t have gone anywhere better and for me personally it’s been an amazing experience. I have been given so many great opportunities, like in Hong Kong and in competitions against other universities. The quality of life and teaching is just amazing so do apply.
Secondly, don’t be upset if you don’t get it. It is a very tough process. My interview was gruelling and I was certain I hadn’t got in. Finally, try your hardest at college, do your best in your exams and listen to Nicola and the other staff on the High Achievers’ Team!