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    Hey guys,

    I've been having problems for awhile and thought I'd like to get it off my chest. Also wondering if there are others out there who share similar problems with me.

    I joined Oxford as a undergraduate Law student in 2015. I've been having difficulties in my studies: I just somehow don't get stuff, at least not as quickly or cleverly as my peers do. In my previous schools this has sort of happened before: I find that it often takes me a while to 'bloom', so to say. But in other schools, I've had at least a year to grasp the whole subject, and a lot of people I could turn to for help. (More on this in a moment).

    I average, on most of my assignments, just about a 60. To make it clear, this is not something I personally have a problem with. I know a 2:1 average is probably just as good as you can get in other universities, considering our shorter terms and condensed workloads. But my tutors have made it clear that getting below a 2:1 (happened a couple of times) is highly unsatisfactory and I get called in for a talk every time it happens. Furthermore my peers are doing brilliantly: they get an average of about 65, play sports, row, orchestra, etc. So it's just me who's flailing even though I don't do much.

    So you can see where this is going in relation to Mods. I'm pretty sure I won't do well- I'm actually hoping to get a 2:2 because that's just what I need to not get kicked out. The idea of having to resit if I fail makes me sick to my stomach. My tutors have tried really hard to help me, and I've also done so much revision but for something reason I'm just not 'clicking'. I know that I am quite 'slow' in the sense that it takes me a while to grasp things, but when I grasp them I always do really well (past experience anyway). So the structure of the terms here aren't to my benefit, and it's no excuse to say that I can do well if only I had time.

    In relation to my coursemates. They just don't like me. They never talk to me if they can avoid it, and if they can avoid it they will. I've seen some of them double up and walk another way if they see me coming. I've never been invited to hang out with them or anything, or to discuss any work. I've initiated several study sessions because I thought maybe they were just shy, but after several highly forced sessions I gave up. But it's really a strain because in my old schools, when I was struggling, the best help I got often came from asking friends to explain things to me and that was basically how I aced my hardest subjects. It's not happening here. I've tried really hard to talk to them. And I know it's not me because I've easily made friends with other people, and I'm really close friends with some of them.

    As soon as I met the law students back in October I could tell they didn't like me but thought I was being paranoid then; five months down the road I'm pretty sure it's confirmed.

    I haven't brought this up to my tutor because i) not sure what I can say: 'oh, they don't like me.' What's the tutor going to do, throw us together even more? ii) I'm from overseas and I'm very reluctant to bring up complaints because it might sound like a racism complaint (all the other law students are white and I'm not).

    Aside from my studies, I love Oxford so much and I'm involved in activities that make me happy, but studies are obviously a huge part of being here and it's really difficult not being as good as other people. What are your thoughts on this?
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    (Original post by nyx_aerin)
    Hey guys,

    I've been having problems for awhile and thought I'd like to get it off my chest. Also wondering if there are others out there who share similar problems with me.

    I joined Oxford as a undergraduate Law student in 2015. I've been having difficulties in my studies: I just somehow don't get stuff, at least not as quickly or cleverly as my peers do. In my previous schools this has sort of happened before: I find that it often takes me a while to 'bloom', so to say. But in other schools, I've had at least a year to grasp the whole subject, and a lot of people I could turn to for help. (More on this in a moment).

    I average, on most of my assignments, just about a 60. To make it clear, this is not something I personally have a problem with. I know a 2:1 average is probably just as good as you can get in other universities, considering our shorter terms and condensed workloads. But my tutors have made it clear that getting below a 2:1 (happened a couple of times) is highly unsatisfactory and I get called in for a talk every time it happens. Furthermore my peers are doing brilliantly: they get an average of about 65, play sports, row, orchestra, etc. So it's just me who's flailing even though I don't do much.

    So you can see where this is going in relation to Mods. I'm pretty sure I won't do well- I'm actually hoping to get a 2:2 because that's just what I need to not get kicked out. The idea of having to resit if I fail makes me sick to my stomach. My tutors have tried really hard to help me, and I've also done so much revision but for something reason I'm just not 'clicking'. I know that I am quite 'slow' in the sense that it takes me a while to grasp things, but when I grasp them I always do really well (past experience anyway). So the structure of the terms here aren't to my benefit, and it's no excuse to say that I can do well if only I had time.

    In relation to my coursemates. They just don't like me. They never talk to me if they can avoid it, and if they can avoid it they will. I've seen some of them double up and walk another way if they see me coming. I've never been invited to hang out with them or anything, or to discuss any work. I've initiated several study sessions because I thought maybe they were just shy, but after several highly forced sessions I gave up. But it's really a strain because in my old schools, when I was struggling, the best help I got often came from asking friends to explain things to me and that was basically how I aced my hardest subjects. It's not happening here. I've tried really hard to talk to them. And I know it's not me because I've easily made friends with other people, and I'm really close friends with some of them.

    As soon as I met the law students back in October I could tell they didn't like me but thought I was being paranoid then; five months down the road I'm pretty sure it's confirmed.

    I haven't brought this up to my tutor because i) not sure what I can say: 'oh, they don't like me.' What's the tutor going to do, throw us together even more? ii) I'm from overseas and I'm very reluctant to bring up complaints because it might sound like a racism complaint (all the other law students are white and I'm not).

    Aside from my studies, I love Oxford so much and I'm involved in activities that make me happy, but studies are obviously a huge part of being here and it's really difficult not being as good as other people. What are your thoughts on this?
    Former lawyer here - big hugs to you.

    With regards to studying, what exactly are you struggling with? I'm assuming that it's not for lack of effort given that you seem to be working hard and are not heavily involved in extra curriculars. You say that you're not "getting stuff" - is it difficulty with understanding concepts (eg Rule of Law, Parliamentary Sovereignty)? If that's the case, perhaps you can start with easier explanations (eg wikipedia, sixth form law) and then try to see how the more difficult concepts fit in? If you have access to seniors notes or good essays, that's usually quite helpful too. Bear in mind that in exams, you really only have 45 mins to write each essay, so the key is distilling all that information down to bite size chunks. I used to tell my juniors that they should be able to explain a case or article in 3-5 sentences.

    Apart from not "getting stuff", is there anything else that you're struggling with? Eg timing, structure, how to answer questions. I ask this because in all honesty, doing well in Oxford exams is as much about exam technique as it is about knowing the content. Good exam technique is half the battle won.

    Very sorry to hear that you aren't getting on well with your course mates. You say that you're an overseas student - what about talking to other international lawyers from other colleges? I was an overseas kid myself, and I spent a good amount of time with my fellow countrymen. Approaching seniors (be it from your own college or outside) might also be a good idea - they might be able to help you academically, and can provide moral support as well.

    In terms of doing well in Mods, I can honestly tell you that the odds of failing are extremely low, so you shouldn't be too worried about having to resit. Just try to keep your head down, and focus on doing the best that you can. Remember to be kind to yourself - take breaks, eat well, sleep well. Last thing you want is to fall sick.

    I did Mods a long time ago (2012), but feel free to PM me if you want.
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    I'm not a lawyer but just wanted to say I'm sorry that you've been struggling with the work and especially that your tutorial partners are being little shits, by the sound of it. I think the advice you've been given above is great and subject-specific, which is very helpful.

    I'd just like to add/reiterate that I think you should persevere, given you seem to be otherwise very happy at Oxford! I read music from 2007-2010 and whilst I appreciate that it's a subject that is very different to law, I only began to really "get" things in second year (I too was a late bloomer and a somewhat slow learner, compared with my tute partners). That was partly because I had had the first year to kinda get used to everything, and partly because in second year, we had almost an entirely free choice of our modules. So I no longer had to force myself to try and "get" subject areas that I am just not good at or interested.

    I don't know how the law course is structured but if there is more choice available in the second and third years, do keep going and looking forward to that time. It may well be your time to shine!

    Good luck and feel free to post in thread 'Dude, where's my gown?' current Ox students/alumni thread if that would help to vent to people who understand what the place is like :hugs:
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    Thank you so much for your replies, they're incredibly encouraging and supportive.

    mishieru07, I get what you mean. I definitely make progress when I study, but rather slow progress. I need time to come to grasp with concepts, so sometimes this involves rereading important articles/cases a few times over but this takes time I don't necessarily have. So as a result I sometimes skip non-starred articles on my list so that I can more comprehensively understand the important ones. But then in the tutorials the tutor brings up all the articles anyway, so my choice is either read everything but skip properly understanding it, or understanding more but only a few. I've also been slow at picking up implicit ideas that aren't specifically pointed out, probably a sad result of having been spoon fed information from textbooks for most of my academic life.


    I've discussed some of my issues at the end of term report meeting and my tutors have been incredibly understanding and supportive of me, even though I messed up one collection. They plan to address some more of my issues head on next term. I guess one of my issues was that it also takes me awhile to be comfortable with my tutors and I hadn't yet in the previous two terms so I didn't want to approach them for help. But I will just push through collections, hopefully get at least a 2:2 and next term I plan to be much more active in addressing my issues because a lot of them are time/laziness/minor health issues related as well.

    As far as exams go I've actually been having the problem of too much time because I don't have enough to say- but in a recent collection I ran short of time and that was quite an accomplishment for me! So timing isn't too much of a problem, and a lot of it is just related to forgetting the specific facts of a case which I end up pondering for precious minutes. Structure is a big problem that my tutors identified in the first term but I'm slowly sorting that out and so far they haven't brought it up so hopefully it has improved.

    I spend some time with people from my own country and it is really nice, but I don't get to see them often because we're all pretty busy. I do have other friends in college though so it's fine as far as that goes, and I really enjoy the mix of people that I meet. I'm going back to my home country when this is over so I'm glad to be spending time with people of different nationalities

    The_Lonely_Goatherd, thank you! Yes, I am really happy here in spite of everything else. I've made really good friends and so many interesting people, and next term I hope to be more involved in activities as well. Hopefully as you say it'll be better next year when I am able to choose my modules. For now I'm actually more relaxed once my tutors assured me that they knew I was struggling and they weren't really minding it because they knew I was putting in effort.

    I'm definitely going to push through, even though it's difficult- it'd be a different thing if I didn't enjoy the course but I really do, it's just that peer pressure gets me down sometimes and it's hard when I see other people are doing so much better. But I'm trying to convince myself that I will get it eventually and also to be positive about most things, I know that out there there must be people like me and I hope that they'll see this and know they're not alone.

    As far as the other law students go I talked to another international student who was in my position and she advised me to leave it alone. Her opinion was basically that I could ignore them because I'm only here 'for the degree', 'it's only three years', and 'you don't really have to get along with them'. What do you think about this? I'd agree we don't have to be bosom buddies but I would at least like to have a comfortable working relationship with them where I can approach them for help almost anytime, something I can't do right now. At the same time when I talk to other international students I get the general opinion that a lot of them face the same issue- they simply aren't included in many social circles and I think that it's a bit of an issue. It's fine for me, because I've managed to make some really lovely friends; but for people who didn't I imagine they'd be really unhappy and lonely. It's not big enough an issue to raise though and it seems like quite a sensitive one as well.

    Again thank you both for your help- it means a lot to me to know that I'm not alone and that it will get better if I try. That's all I really need to know to keep me going
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    (Original post by nyx_aerin)
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    I will say that it is ENTIRELY NORMAL not to finish your reading lists, so don't feel bad about not getting round to the non-starred materials! I know only a handful of people who managed to do that on a consistent basis, and that's because they're real workhorses.

    Side note: I didn't even finish all the starred stuff on a regular basis (yes I'm terrible I know), and I still managed to do decently well. Like the vast majority of students, I also blagged quite a bit during tutorials because I hadn't read everything. It's really normal.

    I think you're absolutely right that tutors usually don't mind when students are struggling, as long as they're actually putting in effort and trying their best. From my experience, the tutors are more upset if they know you're clearly slacking off. Most of them do genuinely care about their students, so definitely keep working with them.

    If I were you, I'd probably collaborate with other people for notes next time - much easier when you share the workload out. You might also want to discuss essay/ PQ plans - it's usually helpful to bounce ideas off other people.

    I would also say that distilling ideas from articles/ cases/ textbooks is a skill, and people do get better at it over time. After a while, you'll learn which bits are important, and which are not (eg you never need to read counsels' arguments for cases, you don't actually need to read the full case most of the time; reading the head notes + referenced paragraphs/ casebook is usually enough). You'll also learn to take short cuts.

    Also, the facts of a case aren't always relevant - it really depends on context. For constitutional law, I'm pretty sure the facts of something like Madzimbamuto v Lardner Burke or Pepper v Hart probably aren't important. Facts are more important if you want to draw an analogy or distinguish between cases (eg PQs). Even then, the amount of detail you need to know varies. This is something you'll probably learn over time as well.

    If there is a case list available (think there is for Crim? Can't remember for Constit), make sure you look at it before going in. They aren't always organized in the same way as your reading list. I used to write simple summaries of the facts and propositions on case lists to help with memory (eg stupid incompetent people try and fail to kill guy, guy dies later --> one continuing act --> AR and MR coincided, guilty of murder). Alternatively, using key words might be helpful in jolting your memory during exams.

    Since there's only a few days to Mods, my suggestion is to look at past papers, and write lots of essay/ PQ plans. Your focus should be on consolidating and understanding - try not to add too much content at this point. There usually is a trend to the questions, particularly at Mods (eg the obvious causation/ complicity PQ). Look at the past Examiners Reports, and be aware of the typical pitfalls (eg the Roman Empire did NOT expand between the eras of Gaius and Justinian, so don't attribute any differences/ developments to that). Remember to read the rubric requirements (at least 1 essay 1 PQ for Crim, only 1 Gobbet for Roman) - people can and do forget in the heat of exams.

    For essays, focus on having a very good, clear structure (define your terms, set out your proposition, elaborate, counter, conclusion), and answer the question being set (not the one you think ought to be set, which is a common complaint of the examiners).

    For PQs, just work through everything systematically (AR, MR, Defences (including partial defences), Complicity, Inchoates), starting from the most serious offences (eg Murder --> Manslaughter). If you haven't already done a cheat sheet which summarizes all the elements of the different offences, that might be good practise.

    On a social basis, I will say that internationals usually have a harder time integrating. Cultural barrier is a very real thing, and from my experience, Brits tend to be more reserved, and so take time to actually warm up to you. My college batch definitely grew closer over the years. My advice is keep being polite and nice, but don't get too upset if you aren't close friends at the end of the day. Sometimes, it's a bit like dating - nothing wrong with the people, just no chemistry. Something like a batch formal might be worth trying.

    Consider befriending lawyers from other colleges as well, so you can ask other people for help if needed. Those from your country (if any) might be a good place to start. Again, I encourage you to reach out to seniors - they can be a wealth of information and support (we should know - been there done that and lived to tell the tale!)

    You're definitely not alone - Oxford's intensity and style takes getting used to, and it does not help at all that we lawyers have Mods after just two terms.

    Best of luck of Mods, and you're always welcome to drop me a PM if you have further questions/ want to rant/ chat (:
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    (Original post by nyx_aerin)
    thank you! Yes, I am really happy here in spite of everything else. I've made really good friends and so many interesting people, and next term I hope to be more involved in activities as well. Hopefully as you say it'll be better next year when I am able to choose my modules. For now I'm actually more relaxed once my tutors assured me that they knew I was struggling and they weren't really minding it because they knew I was putting in effort.

    I'm definitely going to push through, even though it's difficult- it'd be a different thing if I didn't enjoy the course but I really do, it's just that peer pressure gets me down sometimes and it's hard when I see other people are doing so much better. But I'm trying to convince myself that I will get it eventually and also to be positive about most things, I know that out there there must be people like me and I hope that they'll see this and know they're not alone.

    As far as the other law students go I talked to another international student who was in my position and she advised me to leave it alone. Her opinion was basically that I could ignore them because I'm only here 'for the degree', 'it's only three years', and 'you don't really have to get along with them'. What do you think about this? I'd agree we don't have to be bosom buddies but I would at least like to have a comfortable working relationship with them where I can approach them for help almost anytime, something I can't do right now. At the same time when I talk to other international students I get the general opinion that a lot of them face the same issue- they simply aren't included in many social circles and I think that it's a bit of an issue. It's fine for me, because I've managed to make some really lovely friends; but for people who didn't I imagine they'd be really unhappy and lonely. It's not big enough an issue to raise though and it seems like quite a sensitive one as well.

    Again thank you both for your help- it means a lot to me to know that I'm not alone and that it will get better if I try. That's all I really need to know to keep me going
    I understand what your friend is saying but 3 years is long enough to become quite miserable if the situation keeps on going this way. I'm not sure what the solution is or if there is one to be had, but I'm not entirely sure I agree with your friend (though I do understand the line of argument).

    I'm glad you've got lovely friends outside of your tutorial groups though, that's promising at least.

    Wishing you the best of luck
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    Thank you both! Mods are tomorrow so I'll just hope for the best now Been trying hard to relax so I won't stress out so much tomorrow but can already feel it creeping in haha, I couldn't sleep till 3 last night. Just gotta keep focused and do some light revision.
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    (Original post by nyx_aerin)
    Thank you both! Mods are tomorrow so I'll just hope for the best now Been trying hard to relax so I won't stress out so much tomorrow but can already feel it creeping in haha, I couldn't sleep till 3 last night. Just gotta keep focused and do some light revision.
    Wishing you all the luck in the world!

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