A Week in the Life of an Oxford Student

Allison You St. Catherine's College, University of Oxford, England


November 20, 2019
Currently Studying at: St. Catherine's College, University of Oxford, England
Homeschool: Northwestern University

Hey guys! Sorry that I’ve been incognito for a while—Oxford has been crazy fun but also crazy busy!! Now that it’s already Week 6 of the term (can you believe it?!), and I’ve settled into a routine, I thought it was due time to write about what a typical week in the life of an Oxford student looks like.

For those of you who don’t know, Oxford is divided into 38 colleges, each with their own campuses and lodging, libraries, junior common rooms (which have bars!!), and clubs and societies. I’m studying for the duration of this Michaelmas term at St. Catherine’s college in their PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) department. In terms of tutorials (the equivalent of classes in the states), we take one primary tutorial that meets once a week and one secondary that meet once every other week. Every tutorial is a one-on-one conversation in which we prepare a ~2000-word paper to discuss in detail with your tutor. Throughout the week, there are also optional lectures and seminars that everyone is free to go to, no matter which department you’re part of! Now that you guys know the basics, let’s dive into what a typical week might look like for a visiting student at Oxford!


Alright, let’s get right to what you guys are probably wondering the most about—studying. I’m not going to lie; Oxford students work hard. If your ideal study abroad experience involves traveling every weekend and spending more time exploring than studying, Oxford may not be the fit for you. However, if you’re looking to push yourself and learn not only in-depth about a specific topic but also about how to think more effectively, look no further! Oxford says that the average student here should spend around 40 hours a week on all things related to academics: attending tutorials and lectures, reading and studying material, and writing papers (or completing problem sets for you STEM people). However, I have found that this 40-hour average really varies depending on the individual and the department. Some of my friends here belonging to different departments spend much less time on work overall than I do, whereas my particular concentration within PPE, political and critical theory, tends to have readings that are a bit denser.

However, this is not to say that I think I’m working too much! More than anything, I’ve genuinely been enjoying the process of learning the Oxonian way, and I’ve discovered that I’m capable of much more than what I previously thought. Right off the bat, I felt that the topics I’m learning here have been the most interesting material I’ve read in school, and it’s great that I can personalize my course syllabus with my tutor to cover what excites me the most. What’s more, I only have one or two hours of my schedule blocked off for tutorials each week, so I can typically wake up whenever and find either a cozy cafe to settle down in or visit one of Oxford’s many beautiful libraries for the day’s studying. All the time, I think that I can actually feel my brain growing larger!

The Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room where the Hogwarts library scenes were filmed in Harry Potter

The Radcliffe Camera, my personal favorite library for studying!

There are plenty of cozy cafes and coffee shops around town that make for the perfect study spot


Although studying and preparing for tutorials does take up a good chunk of time each week, this is not to say at all that there is no time left for fun! Students here really know how to make good use of their time. The St. Catz junior common room (JCR) puts on tons of programming: weekly trivia nights, biweekly college-wide parties, music nights in local bars around town, and so much more! On any given week, I usually try to go out with friends once or twice, attend formal dinner in the Catz dining hall at least once, and take advantage of the heavily subsidized drinks at the JCR bar a couple of times. During the daytime, my group of friends will take study breaks together at afternoon tea, walk around the Oxford parks when the sun is out, or explore the farmers markets (and now, Christmas markets!) A couple of times now, I’ve also gone to London for the day with friends. The train or bus ride is only a little over an hour-long, and there’s definitely no shortage of things to do in London!

Additionally, the great thing about studying at such a historical university is getting to experience the unique traditions and events here. Each term, there will be various black tie and white tie balls that all students and guests of students are invited to attend. Just this last weekend, I attended a charity ball that was so incredibly beautiful and so much fun! Every college also has slightly different customs, so it’s always fun to accompany a friend to their formal hall or JCR bar.

Just walking around town and taking in all the beautiful sights is one of my favorite ways to relax

Churros and chocolate sauce from our visit to the Oxford Christmas market!

Oxford Town Hall all decked out for the charity ball


For many people, travel is the quintessential part of the study abroad experience. As someone who loves traveling more than almost anything else, I definitely knew that I wanted to explore as many new places as I possibly could during my term abroad. Visiting students here will definitely need to create their own balance between studying, enjoying the Oxford experience, and traveling around, but I’ve managed to work out what I think is a pretty good schedule for myself. Since my secondary tutorial only meets once every other week, I will also travel once biweekly on the week that I only have my primary tutorial. I leave Wednesdays right after my political theory tutorial and return to Oxford on Saturday night so that I have a couple of days to really focus on my work before the next tutorial! This way, I can really enjoy my time traveling without really having to worry about approaching deadlines. I’ve been having the best time exploring around Europe with new friends, and I can’t wait for all the places I have left to go!

Overall, in the typical week at Oxford, you can most likely find me in libraries or coffee shops during the day, curled up with a latte, my laptop, and a fat stack of books. Evenings are for enjoying meals together with friends at the hall or attending JCR and Oxford-wide social events. The latter half of every other week is for traveling and really taking a couple of days off work. Overall, I think it’s the perfect mix, and I constantly have to pinch myself and soak in the fact that I’m living the study abroad dream I always wanted!

Amsterdam canal boat tour

Eating crepes in front of the Eiffel Tower