The Life of an English Student, Part One

It was suggested to me when I first announced that I was going to university (back when I was actually about to commence my exams…) that I provide some insight for those of you who don’t know how the English system works – and, of course, every university, and every perception of such, is different, so I can guarantee that what I say makes something of an original experience.

My degree is bipartite, which means that I am studying two subjects* ‘for the price’ of one. Nowadays, nothing unusual comes from not studying a singular subject; according to my own knowledge, Philosophy, Politics and Ethics (PPE) is one of the most popular subjects throughout. Tripartite degrees like that are more unusual, though, coincidently, I actually applied to one university offering Linguistics in Tri alongside my Psychology and Philosophy.

Usually, joint honours degrees have higher requirements for entry than a single honours degree, requiring the approval of both departments concerned. (Wikipedia)

Certainly, the majority of British students will study Single Honours.* I may be considered unusual, as my subjects are not both Arts or both Sciences (by definition, Psychology is a Science and Philosophy a humanity/Arts).

We’ll see.

Yes, my room is in this picture. It's one with the window closed.
Yes, my room is in this picture. It’s one with the window closed.

One things about the ‘big wide world’ is, of course, living away from home. Yes, in Britain, this is no pre-requisite, and I have already met some people on my course whose house is also their living-place, but, in the end, this was something I wanted to do. Driving through the town-streets was one trigger for a pumping heart, but continuing beyond the university campus certainly stirred the butterflies.

In the end, however, my hall is not too far off campus, and the building is situated in its beauty just where I suspected it would be.

Wantage Hall, grand, red-brick – with a clock-tower and hourly chime – originally stood as an extended part of Christ Church College, Oxford. This means I have become involved with the world of quad and JCR just as if I had stepped through a different gate of creaking wood.

My room emerged from the blocks of red behind the main, archaic building as part of the ‘New Court’, somewhere in the centre of a C-shaped swivel. There exists shared ‘penthouse’ room(s) somewhere, but I have only seen a mysterious staircase, and I have yet to understand whether the New Court rooms connect to the Old Court centres by more than an underground* passageway.

The hall is its place of mystery.

Being catered and non-catered, ie. whether one cooks one’s own meals or has school-style served luncheons, is not exactly a predominantly-British choice for university, but I believe it defines how one lives, especially as the great hall is a talking point, and food (particularly of the free type) has cropped up in conversation innumerable times this week. With a ‘campus card’ that allows us pre-paid access to many hot and cold served meals on the university grounds, we first years* are lucky.

I chose to be catered, but I still harbour my interests in cooking, indeed. Wantage’s great hall was one of the reasons I was first drawn to my hall over its others. Wantage, however, gets to be doubly incredible by the fact that its great hall has hosted formals. That’s right: formal, gown-and-grace dinners. I stumbled onto the best hall!

School-style indeed: Wantage Hall’s great hall
School-style indeed: Wantage Hall’s great hall

Suddenly, in the space of a week, though through the many dates since my offer and all I had known – but nothing had quite reached me until the heaviness of footsteps down the corridor and the instability of my mattress called that I am no longer at ‘home’ – I have become a Wantagian, enamoured with the burgundy streets, and ready to hiss through my teeth at our rival hall, St. Patrick’s (they know Wantage was their first choice!).

The ins and outs of my life, my room, and anything else about which you ought to be nosy shall be left for another post:

That’s all for now, as my time slips away, and I ought to actually sleep instead of spend my non-existent hours on the internet, but keep an eye out as I keep posted about this new and confusing plot pouring from real life.


*Although we don’t call them ‘majors’, I believe the idea is similar.

*However, my university, Reading, offers university-wide modules, acting as ‘minors’, to study in case the first year subject does not suit. (It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card, effectively.)

*Whether deliberately or by flaw of planning, Wantage Old Court was built on a hill. As such, the music room, the laundry room and the bar/Baa (I’ll explain later) are all, technically, underground when one views them from the quad and the New Court quad-like area. In fact, the ground floor of New Court rooms is also down a good ten steps.

*I’ll explain about the differences and similarities between the American and British separate systems of first years and Freshmen in another post.

4 thoughts on “The Life of an English Student, Part One

    1. I’m sad I’ve yet to get a better picture of the clocktower, actually. Even with my proper camera, the building slants upwards too much for a glossier shot.

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