Catrin, Human Sciences
“Hey, I’m Catrin, originally from South Wales, and I’m just finishing my 2nd year of Human Sciences at Magdalen. I went to Chepstow Comprehensive School.
I’m one of the welfare reps at Magdalen, meaning I help ensure that students feel supported, and spend the rest of my spare time playing rugby with college and the university 2nd and 3rd teams, and hanging out with my friends.”
Whats the best thing about your course?
The best thing about human sciences is the diversity, you study everything from molecular genetics, through animal behaviour, to population demography. This interdisciplinary approach means human sciences looks at really important world problems, such as the impacts of population ageing, and how human behaviours affect the spread of HIV. Generally, when I describe Human sciences (abbreviated to HumSci) to other Oxford students, a lot of them are really jealous that they didn’t hear about it before applying!
What advice would you give to someone considering applying to Oxford?
Definitely just be confident in yourself. If you spend your personal statement and interview talking about topics you think will impress the tutors, you won’t be able to express your genuine interest in the subject, and will find it harder to answer the questions. The tutors don’t just want to hear the same ideas repeated again and again, so don’t be afraid to discuss things that are a little niche! A list of books you’ve read doesn’t tell the tutor anything, whereas if you can explain why you found something interesting, it helps demonstrate that you’ve properly thought about your subject choice.
Why did you apply to Magdalen?
I wish I had some eloquent academic reason, but it’s just because it’s so pretty! There are so many colleges that even when you’ve considered things like availability of accommodation and location, it’s still not an easy choice to make. Magdalen is really good for experience as it’s a financially generous college, and has subsidies, bursaries and grants for students, including >£1000 in travel grants per student. Mainly though, Magdalen is special for its amazing grounds. With extensive gardens and two deer parks (one with a walk so beautiful C. S. Lewis wrote about it!), it’s a little patch of peace and quiet in the middle of an (albeit small) city, which can be so helpful when work feels a bit overwhelming.
What does your day to day life as a student involve?
As a Human Scientist my weeks and days vary significantly. I generally have 8-10 lectures a week, with 3 tutorials a fortnight, which each require me to write a 2000 word essay, taking ~12 hours each. So I generally will be in the library by around 9, do an hour or two of work before my first lecture, try to fit some work in between my lectures, then maybe be back in the library for a few hours before dinner. I get less productive as the day goes on, so I don’t ever work after dinner, and instead use this time to just relax. A few days a week I also have rugby training, both college and uni, which is about 2 hours at a time, and Wednesday afternoons I often have off for BUCS (university sport) matches.
How have you found the welfare support at Magdalen?
Magdalen recognises the potential of Oxford to become very stressful, and so has excellent welfare provision. I’m one of three student welfare reps, who have received 24 hours of peer support training, and exist to make sure that students can properly access the welfare support at Magdalen and in the wider university counselling service. We have a £6000 annual JCR welfare budget, which we largely use for free food to keep up moral! At Magdalen, we have our own college counsellor; a college mentor, Netta, who is one of the most lovely people the world has ever seen; three sub-deans, who all have extensive welfare training, and are always about for a chat, and are particularly useful in emergencies; tutors for welfare and equality and diversity; and countless other staff members who would go out of their way to help students. The college system is excellent in helping to prevent students from going unnoticed.