St John's College Oxford
Alistair is a 2nd year student

  • Home    Hertfordshire, England
  • Degree  History
  • A levels History, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths, German

History - Alistair Hankey (Profile)What made you choose to study here?
Honestly, I’d decided to try applying for Oxford when I was about eight years old because I’d heard that you could get full English breakfast there every day (which you can in fact do!). On a more serious note it’s obviously a world-class institution, and being a city in its own right it’s more lively and has a bit more about it than Cambridge.

When it came to choosing a college, there were four or five which I liked, but couldn’t really pick between. In the end I chose St John’s because it offers lots of perks such as grants, free food and free printing. There's a great sense of community in the College so it’s a great place to live and study.

Is life here different from how you expected it to be?
We do work hard, but we play hard too, and everyone has lots of free time to get involved with sports or drama or student journalism or politics, or whatever else you might want to do. Although of course Oxford is very connected with its history and traditions, the majority of students here are really down to earth – the only thing that makes someone an ‘Oxford’ type is being good at their chosen subject – so you’ll find people from all backgrounds from all over the world studying here.

What do you like about studying at St John’s?
From my personal experience the tutors here at St John’s are wonderful people to learn from, and very supportive if you’re having a bit of trouble with an essay or something like that. We also have regular History subject dinners and even a pre-exam encouragement picnic in summer, so there’s a nice sense of subject camaraderie!

I think the diverse nature of the student body at John’s lends itself to a vibrant social scene – just in my house this year there’s people from six different countries. Our term card in College is jam-packed with various free lunches, fancy dinners and eco-friendly brunches so you’re never at a loss for something to do (or eat!). I’d say there’s definitely a feeling that we get a lot out of being at St John’s, so people are eager to contribute back into College life.

Are there aspects of  your degree you particularly like?
Studying History we have a huge range of modules to choose from, so many that the problem is usually not finding something you like but rather deciding between all the ones you want to pick! We also have the Radcliffe Camera building as our faculty library, which is a nice perk, and you can get to handle quite rare artefacts – last year our tutor allowed us to leaf through a manuscript from 1327 which had been the personal property of King Edward III!

How do you like to spend your spare time?
I’m the Treasurer of St John’s Boat Club so I spend a fair bit of time rowing or going on crew dates (nights out with other boat clubs). This term I’ve been a bit busy with other things so I’ve only been rowing twice a week – the great thing about the sport is that you can sign up to as many or as few training sessions as you’d like. The Boat Club is very well funded so you can go from having never rowed before to competing in Olympic-class boats in just a term or two. I also enjoy attending events at the Oxford Union such as speaker events and debates. 

What advice would you give someone looking to study at Oxford?
Truly, the only qualities you need are to be good at your chosen subject, and want (be motivated) to study it at a higher level. That’s all the tutors are looking for when you come to interview, so if you think you can get the grades for your course there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t apply!