Charlotte is mad about Classics

Charlotte McLean studies undergraduate Classics IC at Somerville College, here is her story.

Charlotte McLean


I was lucky enough to attend a comprehensive school with a truly excellent Classics department. Without the help, support and enthusiasm of my Greek teacher, it never would have occurred to me to study Classics, and without her encouragement I certainly would not have considered it possible for me to ever get into Oxford. I love Classics and I love my degree, and I want as many people as possible to be offered the opportunity to study Classics, and to study Classics at Oxford, where the teaching, especially the language teaching, is of phenomenal quality. I decided to apply to Oxford because the rigour of the language teaching was attractive to me, especially as someone who would be learning Latin from scratch. Needless to say, my beginner Latin classes with Juliane Kercheker have been utterly wonderful, inspiring a love of grammar and linguistics in me which I never envisaged waxing so strongly. I was worried before I arrived that everyone would be far advanced in their language compared to me, given that I had received fewer years of classical education at school, especially compared to many who attend top public schools. To my pleasant surprise, the Classics course is incredibly mixed, with a huge range of students from many different backgrounds, with varying experience in Latin and Greek.

Unfortunately, both the University and the course sometimes suffer under misconceptions of being old fashioned and un-diverse, myths so well diffused amongst schools and young people that I almost decided not to apply; I am indebted to my Greek teacher who had the sense to reassure me that these ideas were incorrect. Having actually got here, it is clear to me that these visions of Oxford and Classics are untrue, and it is utterly unfair on young people, some of whom could gain huge benefit and joy out of studying here, that such falsehoods may discourage application.


Introducing Stephanie…

Stephanie Kemp is an undergraduate studying Geography at St. Peter’s College and wants to ensure that the fee hike doesn’t stop students applying to Oxford.
Stephanie Kemp


When I was applying to university, I originally wasn’t planning to apply to Oxford because I never thought I would have the chance of being offered a place. My decision to apply to Oxford was based on the recommendations of my teachers. I probably would not have applied if I had not been encouraged by them. I loved the course here and life in Oxford looks so exciting, with so much happening all the time. When I think back at all the incredible opportunities I have had here, I can’t believe that I almost didn’t apply! I now take the opportunity as often as possible to help with the many access schemes running and to help others, as others helped me when I visited the open days.

I would hate to think that someone else worthy of a place would miss out on an Oxford education, whether it is for a lack of accurate information, low confidence, or for financial reasons. The tuition fee rise is bound to make students think twice about applying to university, and for this reason it is so important to make sure that all those who have the ability are still able to study at Oxford with the help of bursaries and scholarships.

Introducing Ernesto from El Salvador

Ernesto Oyarbide is studying a Master of Studies in Literature and Arts part-time through Kellogg College and is mainly based in Spain. Here he discusses life as an Oxford student overseas and the need for increased funding for students from Latin America.

Ernesto Oyarbide

My name is Ernesto Oyarbide. I am originally from El Salvador, though I have been living and working in Spain for some time now. I am presently doing a Master of Studies in Literature and Arts (part-time). I have always been a fan of Oxford, which places great importance in not only professional outcomes but also personal development. To be accepted was like a dream come true.

Thanks to the generous support of the Santander Travel Award (and my own funds), I have recently moved from Pamplona to Madrid to conduct a research stay at the Royal Library in Spain.

I am very invested in the study of the humanities. I wish to specialise in the cultural relations between European Civilizations. This may sound as a very ‘bookish’ topic. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that societies need the humanities in order to be able to establish a better democracy. This is certainly true when we come to think about my native country (El Salvador), where lack of education and culture present themselves as two major challenges for development.

In future I would like to help my country in overcoming these handicaps. That is why I am presently learning about development policies through my work and I am specialising in cultural studies at Oxford. Being an overseas student makes it harder to satisfy expenses for postgraduate education in Europe. That is why I needed a job, so that I could cover costs. Luckily, Kellogg College has also been very supportive by granting me a bursary.

I am very passionate about funding. Being part of Oxford is a great experience, but it has also meant a lot of sacrifice. I would like to address the lack of funding for part-time students and the almost non-existent specific funds for Latin Americans. Did you know that most Central American countries have never had more than 10 students at Oxford ever? I am student number 7 for El Salvador! I would like that to change by making student funding more readily available.

During the coming months, I will be going to the Royal Palace in Madrid on a daily basis in order to consult some very valuable diplomatic archives held in there (more about that in my next post). Madrid is quite an experience. Its people, its streets, its restaurants and parks… Everything has a very Castillian taste around it that is also sparkled with cosmopolitan influences and people from all around the world! I will keep you posted on how things go. In the meantime, I think I will be having that famous and relaxing café con leche in Plaza Mayor that has been so much advertised by Madrid’s Mayor on the past Olympic Committee gathering.

Meet Natasha, the first member of her family to apply to university

Natasha Davey is an undergraduate student studying Mathematics at St Anne’s College. As the first member of her family to apply for university, she knows first-hand the misconceptions that surround Oxford and is keen to spread the word that Oxford has one of the best bursary systems in the UK. Here is Natasha’s story.

Natasha Davey

Deciding to apply to Oxford was one of the biggest decisions of my life. Being the first member of my family to apply to university, I entered the process with a lot of preconceived notions which I later found out were simply not true. I remember that at Sixth Form, Oxford seemed like an elite, prestigious place where people like me could only aspire to go. It was only through meeting Oxbridge admissions tutors and students that I realised I had a chance of receiving an offer and I know that without those people I wouldn’t have applied at all.

I found my first year at Oxford to be very challenging, yet rewarding. Initially the pace and level of difficulty of the work was hard to adapt to. However, as the first term progressed I adjusted and now I feel like I have enough time to try and experience all that Oxford has to offer. One thing which amazes me about Oxford is the huge range of opportunities its students have. In the past year I’ve met rock stars, started learning a language, founded a charitable society, listened to world leaders debate and learnt more beautiful Mathematics than I could possibly have imagined before arriving here.

I want to help to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that surround Oxford, many of which I myself held a couple of years ago. It’s all too easy for an able student to be put off applying because they don’t think they have the right background or accent. I had the opportunity to meet a group of people from non-traditional backgounds hoping to apply to Oxford and I was surprised by how many of the students were worried they wouldn’t be able to afford the fees, or thought that Oxford fees were more expensive than other universities. None of them knew before they came that Oxford has one of the best bursary systems in the UK. Oxford has to constantly work against the way it is portrayed in the media in order to continue to attract the best candidates and I would like to help that in any way I can.

Introducing Khushboo, Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld Scholar

Khushboo Borah is completing a DPhil in Plant Sciences at Keble College after applying to Oxford from India and arriving as a Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld Scholar. Here is her story.


I was born and brought up in the north eastern part of India where flood is the major calamity that affects crop production to a considerable extent. Agricultural growth is most important to support the higher growth path aspired by agricultural dominant nations like India and my motive is to engage in a study for food security and sustainable agricultural development. I graduated as an engineer in biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India, and decided to explore further my research possibilities in the field of plant sciences. The opportunity as a graduate student at Oxford will help me build a strong scientific background to carry out my aspired research in developing sustainable agricultural systems in the long run.

My graduate study at Oxford is funded by the Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld Scholarship and Leadership Programme and I am proud to be a part of its aims to cultivate future leaders in the fields of sustainable development  and food security. Funding is a very crucial issue for students in being able to secure high quality education. I had all the zeal, passion and determination to pursue a research career ahead but it would have been very difficult for me if I was not able to secure funding for my graduate studies at Oxford. There is immense talent around the globe but funding their study can be a major hurdle. I want to do what I can for the Oxford Thinking Campaign so that the University can support more scholars in the future. After my graduate studies, I envision a research career where my interests lie in the development of sustainable agricultural systems for better survival of crops under stress conditions.