St John's College Oxford
Ria is a 4th year student

  • Home    Taunton, Somerset
  • Degree  Chemistry
  • A levels Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Physics (AS Biology) 

Ria DinsdaleWhat made you choose to study here?
When I was applying to Oxford I really didn’t know how to choose a college or what college life would be like. I went to an open day and had a look round a few, and chose John’s because all the student helpers were super friendly and organised and seemed to really enjoy their subject. A major draw for me was being able to live in College for all 4 years of my degree. Also coming from a state school, Oxford was always seen as very exclusive, but I never felt that at the open day and still haven’t in the 3 and a bit years of studying at St John’s. Part of my choice was that John’s had a high proportion of state school students, but in Oxford more generally anyone can study regardless of their schooling. I particularly wanted to study in Oxford because it has one of the best chemistry departments in the country and I wanted to get the most out of my degree.

Is life here different from how you expected it to be?
When I first started at Oxford I really didn’t know what life would be like. One of the aspects I didn’t expect was the amount of College-wide activities there are – these are lovely as I got to meet so many more people in College than I thought I would. Another thing I wasn’t quite expecting was the workload – there were many more contact hours and more work to do than I anticipated. However, while this required some adjustment, by the end of the first term I was able to manage my time much better.

What do you like about studying at St John’s?
St John's is a great College to study Chemistry in. I like the tutorial system and having three tutorials a week with one in each of Organic, Inorganic and Physical chemistry, as well as having a tutorial each week in Maths for chemists during the first year. They can be hard work but you get so much out of them that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise. This way you really keep on top of all the chemistry you are learning, and have the chance to ask tutors regularly any questions you may have and get help on any work you may be struggling with.

This is slightly different to some other colleges which have one tutorial a week, so you don’t get the continuous teaching of all three stems each week which I think is very important. I’ve always found having three ensures you get a knowledge of all aspects of chemistry as well as questions being answered quickly so you understand the chemistry from lectures in more depth.

The thing I most like about living in John’s is the ability to live in all years of your degree – you can always live close to your friends and to tutorials or classes. The student committee in College is always putting on events, which makes the social life here great. I’ve really enjoying having a supportive College network around me when I’ve needed it.

Are there aspects of  your degree you particularly like?
There are a lot of perks to doing a chemistry degree at Oxford – the main one being the fourth year research project. During the first three years you get to develop a base knowledge and your lab techniques. You then get to decide an area you most want to research, and spend the year working on your own project in a professional lab setting, gaining so many valuable skills. Having a small group of chemists within College is great as well, because you always have someone to ask if you are stuck on problem sheets or lab reports. Doing a chemistry degree is also a great basis for many career paths and gives you the transferable skills needed for many different jobs. For me I feel it has given me the perfect grounding to hopefully go on and study for a PhD.

How do you like to spend your spare time?
Most of my spare time is spent with my friends and relaxing as much as possible, while trying to go to as many dinners and balls as I can, which are an amazing part of Oxford life. Also I’ve been involved in several societies, from a magazine editorial team to a finance society committee.

What advice would you give someone looking to study at Oxford?
I think you need to have a genuine interest in your subject that goes beyond wanting to get the best grades you can. Studying at Oxford can be intense, so you have to be self-motivated and driven.