And the winner is…revealed!

So, after an interesting and relatively entertaining study day at Cambridge University in February, (see blog below entitled ‘And the winner is…’ ) they had managed to pull ahead of Oxford ever so slightly in their metaphorical boat race to win over my conflicted mind. However, after spending a night in fresher’s accommodation at Brasenose College in March, and with an afternoon at St John’s in the near future, April looked increasingly hopeful for Oxford. I had entered a Classics essay competition with St John’s College earlier in the academic year, and all entrants were invited to attend a study afternoon on Thursday 20th April.

Alex Melling study day Oxford

Winners of the St John’s Year 12 Classics Essay Competition 2017

Naturally, I seized the opportunity, albeit at the price of spending the rest of the day in the car with a fidgety puppy to and from the university (still worth it).


After a few hours of travel, we made it to Oxford, where a friend and I were dropped off outside the main entrance to the college. The porter at the entrance gave us “directions” to Kendrew Quad, where we were supposed to register, but needless to say he took us in the wrong direction. Thankfully, after no help from Google Maps whatsoever, we found the place (along with many other lost-looking college students) and went inside to register. Through the use of red and blue name stickers, we were split into two groups and given our programmes for the day; the theme of each lecture was ‘status’.

For our group (the blue group), the first lecture was to be Ancient History, taken by Dr Georgy Kantor. Coincidentally, my friend and I had already had the pleasure of attending an academic session with Dr Kantor the month prior, when we attended another study day at Brasenose. Once again, his teaching failed to disappoint. His lecture was followed by an Archaeology talk led by Dr Lucy Audley-Miller, which gave an extremely interesting insight into Ancient Roman status, but through focusing on the Plebeians, and in particular their tombs and grave markers. It made me even more determined to save up for our college trip to Rome next year, that’s for sure!

St Johns College quad

Following these two lectures was a tour of St John’s College, given to us by a lovely third-year student who was excellent at answering any questions put to her, as well as encouraging us all to apply for Oxford, because after all, the only sure-fire way of not getting in is by not applying at all. In all honesty, as much as I love Oxford as a city, St John’s didn’t appeal to me all that much aesthetically. It sounds like an amazing place to study, and the fact that they have a grand piano that’s accessible to all students is (almost) enough to win me over on its own, but after spending a night in Brasenose accommodation, St John’s didn’t match up to it in my opinion. Still, I can certainly see why its students love the college so much.


Next was the last (and in my opinion, the best) two lectures of the day, these being for Literature and Philosophy. Our Literature lecture was taken by Dr Benjamin Cartlidge, and focused on status in the Greek tragedy ‘Electra’ – specifically, Euripides’ Electra. This subject majorly appealed to the bookworm in me, and this combined with the humour that was cleverly weaved throughout made the lecture my favourite of the day. To conclude the day’s academics, we had a Philosophy lecture by Dr Ellisif Wasmuth, which looked at the cynic philosophers, and what their view of status was. Many questions were asked, and, as is expected when it comes to philosophy, none were answered. I could only find a closed answer to one question – did I enjoy it? Yes.

The day ended with an informal tea and cake session, which, when compared to the piece of free chocolate we were given at Cambridge, put Oxford miles in the lead. Both Brasenose and St John’s have proved themselves to be masters in the culinary field, and luckily for me, nobody else seemed to like the seemingly endless supply of carrot cake they had, so that accounted for 90% of my daily food intake, naturally. Overall, I had a wonderful day out, and even managed to get back home in time for college the next day. And at long last, my mind has been made up – Cambridge put up a good fight, but I’m on team Oxford.


© Alex Melling