Ronan Burrows O’Donoghue

Hometown & Region: Middlesbrough, Teesside (North East)

Degree: French & Persian – officially European & Middle Eastern Languages (EMEL)

A levels: History, French, German, English Literature

Year of study: Third Year

When I’m not working I’m…

…Doing various things. I’ve tried to dip into quite a few different things over the last few years: the JCR committee, Brasenose chapel choir, a couple of other colleges’ orchestras, the Brasenose Arts’ Fund (giving out money to plays and other student arts initiatives), Kurdish language classes, fundraising with TravelAid Nepal, aid collections for ‘Oxford for Syria’… Currently most of my free time not spent aimlessly browsing the Internet is taken up by rowing with the college boat club, and running campaigns with the university’s Oxfam group.

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

So I actually applied to Univ… I’d stayed there on an Open Day, and as I couldn’t decide between all the colleges in the centre I just went for the oldest… In reality the colleges are all much the same, and everyone’s happy wherever they end up. Having said that, after the unbelievably friendly welcome I got from the BNC interview hosts during my two-hour stay, I have to admit I did leave Oxford hoping I’d end up at Brasenose… I applied to Oxford in general because I was looking for a challenge, and liked the sound of small tutorials and the cosiness of the college system. At the same time, Oxford’s just such a beautiful and inspiring city to study in: I remember looking through the school minibus windows on my first visit down from the North-East and thinking, ‘Wow!’ That was enough in itself.

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

Oxford can sometimes be a little intense, it’s true, and I don’t think I quite appreciated that beforehand… BUT (big but) that’s almost always less because of the work, and more because of all the other unique opportunities that you desperately want to take advantage of within eight-week terms – more than I could ever have imagined existing in one place – on top of actually just spending quality time down the bar, going to formal hall, etc. etc… You do get the hang of it pretty quickly, though. I think I was also surprised that people were so ‘normal’; I’d come across a few slightly arrogant characters at interviews (I don’t think they got in, for the record), so it was a relief to find that almost everyone was so genuinely friendly and relaxed.

What do you like most about studying in Brasenose?

This is a genuinely difficult question: what’s not to like? The atmosphere in college is incredibly positive and supporting; it’s a great group of people, and someone’s always there to talk to, or to help if you need it. I guess one feature I’ve really appreciated is how central the college is, particularly with second and third year accommodation in the Frewin Annexe so close to the main site. My furthest regular lectures and classes are a six- or seven-minute walk from either of them, and the only time I usually go further than that is for the boathouse (fifteen minutes walking) – so I’ve never needed a bike in Oxford, let alone used public transport.

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

This is a bit of a cliché, but you do have to be genuinely passionate about your subject. I started off here as a historian, but quickly found the course wasn’t for me – which made my first attempt at first year pretty tough going. (Fortunately my tutors were brilliant about it, and I switched to something I now enjoy much more.) Otherwise I think it’s impossible to generalise about the sort of person who ends up here: no two Oxford students are the same, and you definitely don’t need to fit any of the standard Oxford stereotypes – or have boundless self-confidence and an endless list of extra-curricular achievements.

What are the perks of your degree?

I can really only say positive things about my degree – especially the huge choice of papers I get within each language for my last two years. For a linguist, though, the best part is definitely the complete freedom of the Year Abroad, which you really can do whatever you want with. As I’m studying Persian/Farsi from scratch I ended up spending most of mine studying and travelling in Iran, which was an incredible experience… But I also managed to fit in a month practising my French by working on an organic goat farm on Corsica, and then a few weeks flitting between revision classes, cafés and wine tastings in Bordeaux. It doesn’t get much better.