Catherine Craig-McFeely

Hometown & Region: Tisbury (a small village around 15 miles from Salisbury) in Wiltshire, South-West England

Degree: History

A levels: History, English Literature and Latin (and French for AS)

Year of study: 2nd year

When I’m not working I’m…

Rowing or playing hockey for college, going down the bar, organising speaker events for the Brasenose history society, sitting on the quad eating lunch during the summer, cooking curry or bolognese in the kitchens in Frewin, spending hours on end in brunch at the weekends.

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

First, I really loved the History course at Oxford.  It has a lot of choice and, importantly I think, goes all the way back to the year 270 offering breadth as well as depth.

Second, Oxford really appealed to me as a city – it’s large enough to feel like a big city and yet not so huge that you get lost all the time; I liked the idea of studying in a city which is famous across the world for providing an excellent education, and has a copy of pretty much every book I could need for my entire degree; and I didn’t want to be too far from home so that my family could visit occasionally.

In practical terms Brasenose seemed ideal: on the Open Day I went to I was looking for an old, pretty college in the centre of the city which provided good value accommodation for all three years and offered food on a pay-as-you-go basis (I am gluten-free and although I realise now that my allergy is no problem at all for the kitchen staff I didn’t want to risk paying in advance for a lot of food that I couldn’t eat).  There are actually several colleges like this in Oxford, but it was the atmosphere I felt at Brasenose that I really loved.  Everyone was very friendly and the college seemed like a lovely and cosy place to live.

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

It’s very normal, and I don’t think I was really expecting that. I’ve made friendships just as strong as those I made at school, only in a far shorter amount of time, and I’m much busier than I had thought I would be, mainly because I’m doing more sport than I had expected.  I also wasn’t sure what to expect from being in a city after having lived in the countryside my whole life, but I love it – it’s hectic and exciting, there’s always someone singing or dancing on Cornmarket Street, and everything you could need is right on your doorstep, from clubs to Tesco.

What do you like most about studying in Brasenose?

One of my favourite things about Brasenose is how the two minute walk from one side of college to the other in reality usually takes ten because of all the people you bump into and say hello to.  I also love the inclusiveness of college activities: it doesn’t matter how good you are at anything to take part, you just have to show willing!

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

Enthusiasm for your subject! You will have to study it in depth for three or four years so you may as well enjoy it!

What are the perks of your degree?

For History the vast amount of choice throughout your degree is definitely the best thing about it. You get to choose pretty much every paper that you take, and there can be up to thirty different papers to choose from at one time.  There’s a huge amount of variety within the degree which means that you can easily specialise in a particular period or geographic area, or you can study a broad range of options.  In the past year and a half, for instance, among lots of other things, I have studied the history of Francia in the time of Emperor Charlemagne, Britain from the Glorious Revolution (1688) to the Great Reform Act (1832), and the conquest and colonisation of the Aztec and Inca Empires in the sixteenth century.

In addition the history tutors at Brasenose are very supportive and if they don’t teach a paper you would like to study then they will find you an expert at another college instead – most of my papers have been taught outside of college but I still feel part of the strong (and large) community of historians at Brasenose.