Students' Stories

Katie: Biological Sciences

Image of KatieChoosing a college seemed such a daunting decision; but since I’ve been at Balliol I’ve realised I should never have worried. Balliol truly is a college for everyone; people are here from all walks of life. College has a great work ethos, emphasising the importance of balancing academic life with being a ‘real student’. Studying Biology at Balliol is great, with only a small number in each year, so you can easily make some good friends. The course begins by offering a broad range of topics in the first year and you specialise in subsequent years as your interests dictate. There are some field trips on offer too, and plenty of opportunities to undertake your own projects abroad. What never fails to amaze me is the amount Oxford always has to offer.

Felix: Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Felix imageThe first day of Freshers’ Week was only the second time I had set foot in the College. I had applied elsewhere and had visited Balliol only briefly for an interview. Two years later, that unfamiliar place has become my home. CAAH is always a small subject group, but most of the teaching is organised centrally by the Classics Faculty and, in College, Classicists and Historians are always willing to help out as well as the CAAH-ists from the years above. Balliol’s JCR is one of the best in the University. Among other things, the JCR runs Pantry (a cheap alternative to Hall food) and the Lindsay Bar. Even if you don’t drink, the Lindsay Bar is a fantastic place to play pool or table football or just hang out with friends at the end of a long day. It can also provide you with an income if you train to work behind the bar. Overall, Balliol’s excellent blend of hard work and good fun has been really enjoyable so far; long may it continue that way.

Sanam: Economics and Management

Sanam imageAs an international student from Dubai, leaving my home town to study at Balliol seemed like quite a daunting idea at first. However, having spent two years here, I truly believe that this was one of the best decisions I made in life so far, and don’t have any regrets whatsoever!

While Balliol’s history, grandeur and perfect balance between academic achievement and social events cannot go unnoticed, what makes the College stand out for me are the people that comprise it. From fellow students to tutors, everyone is extremely friendly, helpful and supportive, encouraging you to reach your full potential. Moreover, with a large international community, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people from varied cultures and backgrounds, which is an enriching experience.

Hannah: Engineering Science

Hannah imageI didn’t know what to expect from my four years at Balliol before I arrived but studying here has been amazing. You are provided with the opportunity to create the right balance between work and play to keep you motivated and there is really something for everyone. A ‘typical Balliolite’ does not exist; everyone has their own quirks and personality that they are free to express, and celebrate and I have met wonderful people that I know I will remain friends with for years to come. Engineering at Oxford is always challenging but with the help of the Balliol tutors we do well and we still have plenty of time to have fun. In College there is a great support system of engineers throughout the years and Balliol Engineering Society (BEERS) events will always be fond memories of mine. I loved Balliol from the moment I walked through the door and I will remember my days here for the rest of the life.

Max: English and Modern Languages

max imageI, like many other Oxbridge applicants, had my fair share of trepidation before arriving at Balliol; the arrogance, the all-consuming workload, the worry that none of my fellow students would ever want to have fun, and all the other Oxbridge myths you hear before you arrive.

I could not have been more wrong. Balliol is, without a doubt, a fun, friendly and extremely active environment to live in. The workload is completely manageable, and there’s a wide enough range of people, backgrounds, and activities to keep anyone occupied, whether it’s a club or society you want to be involved in, or joining the most active JCR in Oxford, or simply go clubbing. It sounds clichéd, but Balliol really does have something for everyone, and I would encourage anyone thinking of applying to Oxford to strongly consider it. I couldn’t be happier here.

Nathalie: History

Nathalie imageTo be honest my decision to apply to read History at Balliol was far from complicated. I applied because when I first visited the grounds looked nice and the people were friendly. Having studied here for a year now what I like most about Balliol is the informal atmosphere, the fact that that every student is treated as an individual and that tutors make the effort to get to know their students. History is a big subject in Balliol and the people I go to lectures and share tutorials with are the same people I have a meal with in hall or a drink with in the bar.

Anna: Mathematics

Anna Hufton imageI couldn’t have anticipated just how much I would love living and studying at Balliol. The College is incredibly friendly and tends to embrace people’s quirks and strange interests - meaning Balliol is always a fun and lively place to be.

Studying maths can be challenging, but with such supportive tutors and fellow undergraduates to help you, it’s never unmanageable and I’ve learnt that sometimes the struggle to get through a problem teaches you much more than finding the answer itself. For me, being taught by so many female tutors in a generally male-dominated subject is hugely inspiring and encouraging.

The community of maths tutors and students at Balliol is so much more relaxed and sociable than anyone would imagine. I’m not sure I would have expected to be singing strange maths songs with my eminent tutors at our Balliol Undergraduate Maths Society (BUMS) dinners, or making maths-themed cocktails with the other students. As well as being lots of fun, I’ve found that these things create a culture of support that is invaluable.

Looking back now I’m so glad I decided to apply: I knew then that Oxford was a prestigious university but I had no idea that life here would be so much fun, which, I think, is the most important thing of all.

Oana: Mathematics and Computer Science

OanaThe environment at Balliol is friendly and supportive – collaboration always comes before competition, and I enjoy being surrounded by people of similar interests. Choosing Mathematics and Computer Science was natural for me since I have always been interested in the beauty of numbers and patterns, and this joint degree provides complementary perspectives. It has been amazing to have tutors who are so enthusiastic about teaching and research, and who are always eager to help. There is also a wealth of activities at Balliol to engage with in your free time, and lots of societies in which to enrol, such as The Invariants, CompSoc and many more.

Steven: Maths and Philosophy

Steven RobinsonStudying Maths and Philosophy at Balliol is a fantastic experience and I’m very pleased that I decided to apply here. I quickly felt at home as there is a very close-knit community of students reading this course at Balliol.

In Philosophy tutorials you are able to interact with experts on the issues, developing the skills to quickly analyse arguments and form coherent positions. The tutorials with internationally renowned mathematicians are not only stimulating but allow you to see problems in a completely different way.

Whilst the combination can at times be very challenging, the tutors and your peers are incredibly supportive and are always willing to help you. The students and tutors are very down to earth and the entire community is so friendly and welcoming. If you are ever feeling down or stressed by work there are always people to talk to, from your personal tutor to the daily welfare tea arranged by fellow students in Trinity Term. Everyone is always willing to lend you their notes when you miss a 9.00am lecture, or explain a problem to you at 2.00am when you’re struggling through a tutorial sheet.

Being a mathematician here you are a member of the prestigious Balliol undergraduate maths society (BUMS) which organises regular social events and holds the best dinner of the year, with a famous speaker and everybody singing amazing maths-inspired songs. It’s unique things like this that makes Balliol such a great place to be a student.

Emily: Medical Sciences

Emily imageMy first impression of Balliol was the fun, friendly atmosphere among students across all years. I was both nervous and excited at the prospect of starting university but fellow Freshers and my ‘parents’ (students from the year above) made me feel at home straight away. Balliol has a fantastic location right in the centre of Oxford, with Sainsbury’s mere steps away, and a stone’s throw from the river, Port Meadow, and University Parks. The MSTC (where lectures, praticals, and the majority of your medical life is held) is only a ten-minute walk away, which maximises your lie-in in the morning! Academically, Balliol offers great tutorial support. Pre-clinical medicine is a huge step up from A-levels, and it is essential to have approachable, helpful tutors, which Balliol boasts. You will get to know them well throughout your time at Balliol, not only through tutorials, but also through the dinners of the Balliol Medical Society. It is essential to balance work with play, which is certainly possible and actively encouraged, especially when it comes to rowing! Overall, my experience at Balliol has been fantastic; hard work, but then who doesn’t like a challenge?

Laura: Modern Languages

Laura imageUniversity can be daunting at first and I certainly wasn’t over-enthusiastic about my first term here. However, once I began to discover all that Oxford has to offer, I realised what a great place it is to be as a student. There are five languages students in my year and we have ended up doing a lot together. I have really appreciated having other people doing my subject to talk to if I have a problem with work or simply to share ideas. The Balliol tutors are extremely welcoming and ready to offer as much help as you need. Balliol has a great college life which has something for everyone. Even in my final year I am always meeting new people, as there is always something new going on in the JCR whether it be a film night, a poetry reading or an open mic night in the bar. I have loved my time here and would encourage anyone to apply.

Paul: Oriental Studies

Paul imageI chose Balliol for five reasons: First, I wanted to be a part of its centuries-old legacy. Second, I was inspired by the stress on Balliol’s tradition of accepting students regardless of background. Third, coming from a German-Korean family, I appreciated the sensible cosmopolitanism. Fourth, I wanted to be close to the Oriental Institute and the Examination Schools. Last, but not least, I thought that it would be good to join the college the Boden Chair in Sanskrit is attached to.

Since I have started my studies, these points have proved to be real advantages and I have discovered even more pleasant peculiarities of Oriental Studies at Balliol. For instance, I love attending the weekly Sanskrit Lunch in Hall or using the facilities of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies just across the street. Most important for me, however, is the sense of companionship at Balliol, be it in rowing, singing, at the JCR Pantry or studying in the Library.

Tara: Oriental Studies

Tara imageComing from a low-income background and being the sole carer for my mother meant that financial support made all the difference to me in choosing a university. The first time I ever visited Balliol was during interviews, and though I was very nervous, I took the time to find out about the bursaries and grants the College could offer. I was promised by my interviewer (and future tutor!) that I would receive as much as I needed in order to study here. That promise enabled me to accept my place, and has been fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams.

This year and last, I was given generous bursaries. These allowed me to pay for accommodation and to get involved in College life, which simply wouldn’t have been possible without financial support. Although there are so many things I love about Balliol, my favourite is its inclusiveness. I was initially worried that I’d feel left out here, but I was welcomed with open arms, and my closest friends span a huge number of subjects and backgrounds. I’m really happy to be part of such a vibrant and diverse community.

Yuan: PPE

Yuan imageWhen I decided to apply to Balliol for PPE, an older friend of mine told me to reconsider applying to an ‘easier’ college. I thought this was absolutely the wrong thing for him to suggest; firstly, because the interviewers here are so careful to pool applicants who are Oxford quality, and secondly, because if you want to be somewhere, why not try to get there? I think the most important part of Balliol to me is the community: the undergraduates, the graduates, the tutors and Fellows. They’re the people I see every day in an invariably friendly atmosphere, who make the effort to discuss their ideas and listen to yours too, who lend you their lecture notes that day you wake up late, who seem to be interested in everyone and everything. I don’t think there’s ever been an instance I’ve not been able to find someone interested in projects I was carrying out, or knowledgeable and helpful enough to help me with something I was stuck on. It’s feeling like being a participant in the College’s life that makes this place feel so much like home.

Alice: Physics

Alice imageStanding in Balliol’s Front Quad the first time I visited, it seemed like a completely unreal world. But the friendly, relaxed atmosphere soon made me feel welcome. My favourite aspect of Balliol life is the work/life balance; tutors recognise you have both academic and personal goals. There is a culture of student participation, borne out by our amazing JCR, which organises events such as film nights, karaoke, and trips to see shows in London. There is the opportunity to get involved, whatever your interests. I started rowing in my first year, and by my second year was coxing the men’s 1st VIII. Balliol is lucky in having four Physics fellows directly linked to the college, giving expert tuition, and allowing me to achieve my academic potential. When I first arrived at Balliol, I was told it was a place to ‘work hard and play hard’. More than that, it is my home, where I have made some wonderfully interesting friends.