University of oxford - a week in the life of an arts student

Ever wondered what it's like to be an arts student and the University of Oxford. Some current students have taken the time to write down what they did during the week. If you're a current Oxford student, feel free to add your own experiences.


3rd Year

I'm one of the college organ scholars, so this is mainly a choir schedule rather than a specific music degree one. Most people I know would not be getting up for chorister practice....

Mon: 7.00 Wake up for chorister rehearsal which is at 8 9 Back in college, check emails/waste time for a bit, then probably 10 - 12 Library - reading for an essay or working through a piece of music which we have been set to analyse.

This term I don't have any lectures on a Monday so some kind of work or organ practice carries on until... 5pm Choir Rehearsal for evensong 7pm Free dinner afterwards! 8.30 - 9.30 Usually college orchestra

Tues: 7.00 Wake up for chorister rehearsal (oh dear...) 9am Wagner lecture 10 - 11 Annoying time of hanging around in between lectures: usually I try to bring some reading to do 11 - 12 Choral Studies lecture 1 - 4 Work 4 - 7 Choir 7pm Dinner again :) 8.30 Music Society concert with free wine afterwards!

Weds: Lie in, yay. Wake up around 9am and do some work in the morning (usually essay-writing day, I can write a 2000 word essay in a couple of hours once it's planned and I've done all the reading for it). Usually go horse riding around 2pm. Meet friends for dinner, do some more work, a whole day off from choir!

Thurs: 7am Wake up for chorister rehearsal 9am Back in college, teach a beginner organ lesson 11am Lecture Afternoon: once a fortnight I have a tutorial in the afternoon 5pm Choir rehearsal and service, dinner, rehearsal afterwards for the next week 9.30 Bar with choir people :)

Fri: Wake up around 8, for a 9.30 tutorial. 11am Another tutorial, or sometimes in the afternoon for History. Afternoon: go down to the Faculty library and return/take out books. 4pm Pick up the choristers for rehearsal. 6.30 College chorus rehearsal 7.30 Usually get something to eat with people after the rehearsal

Sat: Nothing in particular :) Although there are always loads of concerts/plays/operas on in Oxford all the time, so usually go to something in the evening!

Sun: 9am Breakfast with friends in local cafe

Church in the morning

Family phone call in the afternoon (I set Sundays aside as non-work days, provided I've done enough on Saturday...)

4pm Choristers arrive for evensong

Rehearsal, service, dinner and bar!




1st Year

Username: Consie

Year of Study: 1st year undergraduate

Typical Week:

I don’t have set schedules really. I usually get up at noon having missed a lecture, see if there’s any footy/rugby training or matches to play in, play some pool, watch something on surfthechannel, maybe go the parks to practice kicking. Start drinking at 6, have dinner at 7, more focused drinking from 8 till 10, go out to a club after that. I miss a worrying amount of lectures (which is pretty lame, they’re only 50 minutes long and are useful) but on the 3 days running up to a tute I usually factor in reading/writing instead of playing pool or whatever. My tute is usually on a Wednesday so I might sacrifice going out Tuesday night, stay up late working, get up early and work all morning, do the tute and then start drinking extra early in celebration that I don’t have a tute for another week. I probably average about 10-15 hours work a week and it all seems to be going fine. A lot of people, it seems to me, read a lot more than is really necessary for a 1500 word essay. I usually get a reading list with 8 books on, 2 or 3 are starred as extra useful, I read between 20-40 pages in the 3 starred books and do the essay, its not exactly labour intensive.

1st and 2nd Year

Username: sophisti_kate

Year of Study: 1st and 2nd years

Typical Week - First year:

M and H terms BRITISH VI / GENERAL II / HISTORIOGRAPHY - 3 essays and 3 tutes every fortnight / 2 lectures a week - 3 days reading for each - I'm pretty disciplined about this so probs 9am-lunchtime and then 1-4pm - but then I can't work in the evenings! I wrote goddamn tomes of notes... - 1 day writing up notes for each and then less than a day writing the essay - manage to fit in HistSoc stuff, novice rowing and chilling most evenings!

T term OPTIONAL SUBJECT - down to 1 essay a week / 2 lectures / 1 class / supposed revision - procrastination and rowing means I don't actually have any more spare time despite fewer essays - finish tutes in 6th week (?) and revise until exams in 9th

Typical Week - Second year:

M term BRITISH III- 1 essay a week / 2 lectures - same as above really - much more relaxed academically wise

H term - FURTHER SUBJECT 1 essay a week / 2 lectures / 1 class with presentations BUT only 6 essays! I finished in 7th! - my favourite term so far - a subject I really loved, an awesome tutor, less stressful rowing wise although I nearly had a nervous breakdown before Torpids when we still only had seven people

I know that I'm not the typical historian - I try to be in a library most days by 9am, do more reading than some, take an age over writing essays - but I seriously lag after lunch and get tired so I sort to need to be an early bird! I also procrastinate a lot!

1st Year

Username: oriel historian

Year of Study: 1st year/general

Typical Week:

4 / 5 days reading. 1 day writing up. Morning of tute off as a break. Post-tute = library run. Begin again. Of course during those 4/5 days I probably wasn't always reading about the tute work but reading around it & fitting in historiography / historical theory reading too. Fun. But I *never* went to a complete run of lectures bar one set by Dr Holmes of Univ (she's amazing, truly) and one by Dr Skinner of Balliol (who is *the man* as far as history at Oxford goes for me!) so I did afford myself the extra reading time that way.

1st and 2nd Year

Username: Peter_the_Great

Year of Study: 1st and 2nd year undergraduate

Term-time is essentially a series of minor variations on the following theme. I never work before lunch or after dinner, and rarely work at weekends, although I do exert myself more on Wednesdays when writing an essay. Nowadays I indulge in a life of idle pleasure, but only having retiring from a hectic journo-hack’s life editing Cherwell during my first and part of my second year.

Typical Trinity term day:

10:30am - Get up. Mess about on Internet. 11am - Either exercise or cook dinner for the evening. 11:45am - Shower 12:10pm - Stroll into college 12:30pm - Lunch 1pm - Take books to college garden. Alternate between reading, chatting, croquet, pipe smoking, lying in the sun, listening to music, sipping Pimm’s, going punting or cycling into the country, and generally being an idle waster 6pm - Stroll home, have dinner 8pm - College bar or a decent pub 10:30pm - Relocate to club or another bar, or home for tea, films, smoking, conversation etc 2am - Sleep

Not sure about a weekly schedule at the moment, but last term it was:

Monday - None Tuesday - 2 - 4pm, class; 5:30 - 7pm, OSPL Board of Directors meeting Wednesday - Essay writing day, so more work than usual Thursday - 2 - 3pm, tutorial Friday - None Saturday - 10am, rugby Sunday - 8pm, SU meeting

Human Sciences

Username: Athena

Year of Study: 2nd Year

Typical Week:

Michaelmas and Hilary terms (October- December; January - March) tend to have quite a few lectures per week - with only 8 week terms, you have to pack in quite a lot! I have between 10 and 14 lectures per week, and my day starts about an hour before than first lecture (be it at 9, 10 or 11am!), as I live out of college, 2 & 1/2 miles from the Human Sciences centre where the majority of our lectures are. I sit through up to 3 hours of lectures (sometimes or two followed by an hour's break, and a third lecture elsewhere in Oxford - the Zoology/Psychology Department, the Exam Schools, a particular anthropology department...), and then either cycle like mad to get to college lunch before all the good food goes, or cycle back home for something to eat. If I have afternoon lectures, I'm more likely to stay in the city centre, as it wastes time cycling to and from too often! I fill up the gaps with going to a departmental or university library (such as the Radcliffe Science library or the Social Sciences library), the college library or computer rooms, visiting my college parents or just going round the city centre or getting coffee to drink in the JCR.

If I don't have any afternoon lectures, I probably use that time to work. For me, a 2000 word essay (depending on how much reading is needed) will take around 2 - 2 & 1/2 days. A day (possibly a little longer) usually goes on the reading for the essay; how long is takes to write the essay depends largely on how well I've understood what I've read. I can write a 2000+ word essay in five hours if needs be. How long I work at the essay in one go varies according to how close the deadline is, how much other work I have to do that week, what I want to do that evening, and what I want to do later in the week. If I know I'm going out a couple of nights running later in the week, it means I have to work harder on, say, Monday and Tuesday. I quite often work from 2 - 7pm at the start of the week, with breaks to get a cup of tea, have dinner, and then work again - probably from 8 - 9pm. I start to lose concentration for academic work after about 9pm, so there's not much point trying to work after this. I never have morning deadlines, so pulling an all-nighter to get an essay done in time is just silly - I'll always have a day ahead of me to do it in. Doing three essays a fortnight (standard Human Sciences workload) is quite feasible as well as lectures, although if for some reason you have two essays a week for a longer period, this can start to become quite hard work - you literally have to begin the next essay as soon as you finish the previous one. Being organised is a must - there was one week when I had to write four essays in seven days (an unusual situation) and when that happens you just have to knuckle down and do it. But tutors are very understanding of this - my tute partners were busier than me and couldn't get the last essay done in time, so our tutor gave them permission to email it to her during the vacation.

I am often quite busy in the evenings, doing things that have nothing to do with work. Tuesday nights are trampolining (I'm a coach, and the new club president, so even if I'm too tired to do any bouncing myself, it's good to go along and help out, say hello to people); Wednesdays are the Sports Fed club night at one of the clubs, with free entry and cheap(er) drinks - I might go there just with my team, or on a crew date with another team. I'd say I go to formal at someone else's college every other week of the term. Friday night might involve going to a bop at another college, having friends round and cooking for them, or going home for the night (I live about 1 & 1/2 hours from Oxford by train, and single tickets can be only £6/7 in advance). Every other Saturday at my college is a bop (fancy dress disco) and they're usually a pretty big event, so Saturday is often spent chasing round for costumes, or getting covered in face paints! If I haven't been out too late (or I feel masochistic) I may go trampolining the next morning, or I'll sleep in and then spend Sunday working on my next essay(s), doing food shopping, washing clothes, tidying - all the things I seem to run out of time for in the week!


Username: Angelil

Year of Study: Postgraduate, MPhil

Typical Week:

My Mondays and Fridays are totally free this term, but I expect that when I'm not visiting my boyfriend I'll be filling those days with library visits and tutorials. My Tuesday-Thursday (inclusive) is pretty chock-a-block with classes. In the first term things were a bit more evenly spread, though there was less freedom - you basically had to go to everything. In the second term things relax a bit and you can just go to what interests you. Same in the third term. So when I say my Tuesday-Thursday is packed this term I only have myself to blame

Saying that, I do spend a lot of time in my room or in the MCR, working/chilling out. The online resources are brilliant so I tend to work from here when I can. I work best in the afternoons and evenings so I tend to spend my mornings sleeping in late, watching TV and faffing about on the internet.

Food-wise I eat in college only when I really can't be bothered to cook as the food isn't that great. I tend to use the kitchen in the MCR as it's the only kitchen with an oven. I eat a lot of Italian food and I'd say I eat vegetarian food most of the time as well.

At the moment I'm technically on holiday since term is over but it makes no difference - term doesn't start back until the 17th April but I've got a meeting with my tutor on the 7th (by which time my thesis should be finished ) and will be getting my thesis bound on the 18th before handing it in between then and the 25th. I then have 2 exams to prepare for next term which means converting my lecture notes into 2x6 index cards for revision purposes. I'm also invigilating collections in 0th week.

Extra-curricular wise I'm a member of 2 choirs in college, I do a lot of work with Pro-Test, and when I can motivate myself I try and get to the gym in Summertown.



PPE 1st Year

Username: JohannaMarie

Year of Study: 1st year undergraduate

Typical Week:

A week in the life of a first year PPEist (Hilary term):

Deadlines: Philosophy essay in on Monday afternoon, Politics essay in on Tuesday afternoon, Economics problem sheet and essay in on Thursday morning

In my first term it took me four entire days to write a politics essay, so this term, with three essays a week, something had to change, but unfortunately to a large extent that meant sleeping less.

Sunday: 8am-6pm philosophy reading, 8pm-11pm, essay plan, start writing Monday: 4/5am-10:30am write essay, 11am-1pm lectures, 1.15pm-3pm finish essay, 3-4pm lecture 5pm philosophy tute - recover - 9pm-11pm politics essay plan, start writing Tuesday: 4/5am-9:30 am essay writing 10am lecture 12-4 finish essay, 4pm politics tute, 5pm-6:30pm practice 7pm-10pm OUO rehearsal - sleep... Wednesday:7am - 10.30am finish economics reading, 11am lecture, 1pm-4pm economics questions, 4pm-6pm economics revision class, then some practice, 7pm-10pm OUPhil rehearsal - lots of coffee - 11pm-9am the weekly economics torture: Finish on questions and write essay (usually most PPEists and E&Mists stayed up all night so it was actually quite nice) Thursday: SLEEP Some more economics reading for the tute, start on some politics reading, practice, 7pm-10pm OUO rehearsalFriday: Economics tute at 11.30am, lecture at 3, as much politics reading as possible around that Saturday: 7am-midnight politics and economics reading with breaks (doing shopping, going walking/running/cycling)

This term was not good for my health but I've been told this was the hardest term workload-wise for PPEists.

PPE 2nd Year

Username: cor

Year of Study: 2nd year undergraduate

Typical Week:

Diary of a hack..

(Vacation: 9am - go to union 6pm - dinner 7pm - back at union to keep working)

Monday AM: Attend Lectures and Tutorial Monday PM: Union Committees from Midday-6/7pm Monday Eve: Relax in bar and begin some academic work.

Tue AM: Attend Lectures and stop by Union to check pidge Tue PM: Start the bulk of my reading for the week. Usually some form of exercise/rowing training also. Tue Eve: Usually go out and socialise - maybe clubbing / help or attend some union even (dates of these vary)

Wed AM: Lectures again - though these may be binned depending on previous night. Wed PM: Some form of rowing/exercise training to take place. Continue with reading and finish the essay. Wed Eve: help or attend at some union event (the dates of these vary)

Thu AM: Lectures and Tutorial. Thu PM: Continue Reading for essays. Play Rugby. Thu PM: Union Dinner/Debate/Drinks

Fri AM: Attend Lectures and Tutorial. Fri PM: Catch up on JCR Academic Affairs stuff. Send e-mails. Rowing. Fri Eve: relax in bar and go out.

Sat AM: Sleep in late Sat PM: Double rowing outing. Sat Eve: Begin reading for the week coming. Catch up on Union matters. Relax in bar.

Sun AM: Sleep in late Sun PM: Double rowing outing. Sun Eve: Debating in Union, JCR Meeting and Reading.

In the summer there may be more sport played such as kick-a-rounds on the meadows or just general lounging around. This usually eats into reading times.