James Norman

Hometown & Region: Ely, Cambridgeshire

Degree: Classics

A levels: Maths, Further Maths, Latin, Classics

Year of study: Fourth Year

When I’m not working I’m…

 …A permanent member of the college bar staff, and when I’m not on shift I spend a lot of my time propping up the bar, spending time with my colleagues and exhausting my earnings on reasonably priced beer. Over the previous four years I have become very interested in linguistics, and (often while nursing a hangover) have been teaching myself several languages in my spare time, to varying levels of incompetence.

What made you choose to study at Brasenose and/or Oxford?

My main motivation was the course which Oxford provides – for Classics, it allows a huge amount of variety and a lot of contact time with very good tutors. As my main reason for being here was my degree I felt it was important that these were my priority with applications. Brasenose is well situated in the centre of the city, had friendly and helpful students when I visited, and by being the first college I saw on the open day was one of the only ones I still remembered when filling out the UCAS form.

Is life in Oxford different to what you expected it to be?

Oxford life can be quite far from the clichéd cloistered existence it’s associated with, which for me was a relief. I was scared of being bound up in black tie for every meal, forced to play obscure equestrian sports and being shunned as one of the only students without a triple barrelled name. That Oxford is available if you want it (and look hard enough), but so is a more measured and welcoming existence of burger and chips in hall, freedom to do whatever extra-curricular events you want and social events which are far more like the ones most of my friends at other universities enjoy (with the smattering of archaic and ridiculous traditions to give a flavour of things still being a bit unique). If flouncing around town showing off your status in the oddest collection of Oxford related paraphernalia isn’t for you, there’s more than enough room left to carve out your niche.

What do you like most about studying in Brasenose?

While I can only speak for Classics, I have been very lucky to have been taught by a brilliant collection of enthusiastic, supportive and world-class academics who have indulged my every (increasingly esoteric) interest. The quality of teaching and the resources are exceptional, and the flexibility of the faculty ensures that there has always been someone perfect for each module I have chosen. The Classics community at Brasenose is very close, and I would consider all my tutors close friends as well as academic staff.

A quality you think is important for someone looking to study at Oxford?

Determination, perhaps even bloody-mindedness! There is room for plenty of fun and socialising, but there are is a lot of long, hard days spent in the library to master difficult topics and keep producing the cycle of essays which demands persistence, stamina and diligence. Sitting back and letting work slide will wind up your tutors, make things more difficult further down the line and waste your time being here. On the other hand, a structured and thoughtful approach to the workload leaves you plenty of spare time for hobbies, sleep and a gradual destruction of your liver.

What are the perks of your degree?

My degree has given me academic opportunities almost unique for an undergraduate in the UK. I have been taught to use over seven different ancient languages and been tutored by the leading individuals in their fields on topics covering two thousand years and ranging from the Azores to Sri Lanka. At present I have no idea what the future holds for the skills I’ve picked up, but last year (to give an example) I received funding from Brasenose and the University to spend my summer teaching English and learning Mandarin in China, reapplying the linguistic competences from Classics in a completely novel context.