In my first year of studying English at Oxford, I felt like a deer in the headlights; I struggled to engage properly with the literature I was studying and simply couldn’t get into a groove. The pandemic definitely didn’t help with this; tutorial discussions felt stilted by the virtual distance, and classes were hindered by the all too comforting features of the mute button and the ability to switch my camera off. I didn’t really feel like I was studying at Oxford; it felt more like I was floating in the ether. I felt lost not only in my degree but in myself.
So it’s fair to say that if you had told me that I would have the best year of my life during my second year at Oxford, I almost definitely wouldn’t have believed you! During this time, I finally found my passion, and that was in the delight that is Course II, which focuses on earlier literature and the history of English. The seed of my love for Old English poetry was sown in Prelims but was allowed to truly blossom in my second year. I have had the pleasure of handling manuscripts in the Weston Library, engaging in untapped treasures such as the medieval Welsh lyric, and attending the most exciting medieval research seminars held by the most revered scholars in my field. I truly count my lucky stars every single day that I get to study what I love.
But perhaps the most wonderful thing about doing Course II is the little moments of human connection that I had so yearned for in my first year of study; the moments that reanimated my degree with vibrancy, with life. I found a best friend in a fellow student at my college, Kian, who had also made the same decision to do Course II; we shared a little-held passion for medieval literature (we were the only two Course II students at our college at that time), and it has made our friendship a particularly special one. In a tutorial on Andalusian lyrics in Hilary term, I would meet a kindred spirit in Dr. Ayoush Lazikani, who would go on to become my wonderful dissertation supervisor, an opportunity I may not have had if it wasn’t for Course II, which brings tutors and students from a variety of different colleges together, given the niche nature of the course. In fact, the entire cohort of Course II students is a close-knit one, given that there are just over 30 of us (and that’s one of the biggest cohorts to date!). The camaraderie of Course II students huddled outside the English Faculty after an especially challenging History of the English Language lecture, the shared bewilderment of a tutorial partner having to find yet another room at an unfamiliar college, the congratulatory cards sent after submitting our Paper 4 coursework, galore with Old English puns; it is these little moments that make up the sum of my degree, and that I will cherish fondly for years to come.
That’s one of the beautiful things about studying Course II at Oxford; being surrounded by people who are here for the pure love of it. We have all chosen to do Course II, and this is evident in the passion we exude, in both the students and tutors alike. I know that my time as a Course II student will always have a special place in my heart, as it has not only given me an unexpected fondness for medieval literature but, perhaps more poignantly, has given me a profound appreciation for human connection on a more personal note, too. And for that, I will be forever grateful.