Student experiences of the 2020-21 academic year banner
Student experiences of the 2020-21 academic year banner

Student experiences of the 2020-21 academic year

To end this challenging academic year, we've captured some of our students’ unique experiences as we reflect on the challenges that have been overcome and hopes for the future in a post-pandemic world. 

Daniel Dipper, Magdalen College, History and Politics

"I feel I have had a great transition to university this year – from the Opportunity Oxford programme which equipped me with the core skills to succeed in my degree to the college and faculty study skills sessions and the specific feedback provided by tutors, I have really been able to develop academically."

"I have also been able to share these insights with others, including participating in college Access and Outreach Q&As, writing some blogs for the History Faculty, and in mentoring some offer-holders through a college support scheme which I hope will help to level the educational playing field and equip other students with core skills from backgrounds similar to my own."

"This experience has only been strengthened through the support provided by my household, my friends, and through the generous financial support provided by my college to ensure I have what I need to learn. While this year may not have been what was expected and has presented new challenges, I feel I have still had a good start to my degree, and am very positive about society hopefully opening up to allow more normal activity to resume."

Daniel DipperDaniel Dipper

Shathuki Perera, Jesus College, Biology

"My first year at Oxford has been very enjoyable and inspiring- despite the circumstances of the pandemic and the somewhat disrupted Hilary term that consisted of remote learning. Taking part in Opportunity Oxford really helped me set foundation to my first year at university- and it was successful in establishing many friendships and in helping me to get a first-hand look at how the different aspects of my degree."

"The tutorial system that makes Oxbridge so unique was at first very daunting, but after doing my first tutorial following an essay was effective in putting my fears to rest and showed me how stimulating and enjoyable a tutorial can be. The friends I made from the programme have also made a big contribution to current life at Oxford."

"Furthermore, the lack of in-person activities in Michaelmas and Hilary means that a lot of us have been very grateful for in-person social events this term. This has also means that meeting people from and visiting other colleges has been possible- which I hope is a progressive first step towards normality and a true Oxford University experience."

Shathuki PereraShathuki Perera

Marwa Mohammed, St Hilda’s College, Law and Oxford University Islamic Society member

"Since the majority of my first-year experience was in Oxford, it took a lot of alertness and cautiousness to ensure that I was not breaking any COVID rules. It was quite difficult to balance the desire to have an authentic and "normal" university experience and the need to follow Government guidelines. This made the process of trying to make organic friendships harder as most people, especially freshers, lacked access to meet a lot of different people."

"However, I would say that societies and college initiatives are what made my experience fruitful of lasting memories and great memorable experiences. The countless socials that were held by the Islamic Society (Isoc), be it online or in person, aided the process of normalising the past year as much as possible by allowing people to meet each other and not feel isolated."

"There are countless people that can attest to the relentless effort that Isoc has put in ensuring that guidelines are followed whilst also ensuring that people are having a great time. I may have met some of my closest friends in a Zoom call, however, I feel that because we share this experience it has strengthened my friendships."

Catherine Dixon, Merton College, Music (re-starting in October)

"Towards the end of February last year, I was getting increasingly anxious about the coronavirus. As someone receiving biologics and long-term steroid treatment for lupus, I knew that I may be at risk of serious illness if I came into contact with the virus. To reduce my risk, I stopped attending lectures. At the time, I asked the music faculty if it would be possible to access recorded lectures, but I was told that the projector was down and this would not be possible."

"After the first coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Oxford, the college nurse advised me to stay in my room and return home as soon as possible. My dad left work immediately and drove from Norwich to pick me up. A friend returned some library books for me and I had my final tutorial of term on Skype. Just before Trinity term started, I developed shingles. This isn’t uncommon amongst immunosuppressed patients, but is often triggered by stress."

"Although many aspects of remote working, such as pre-recorded lectures and online resources, made studying with a chronic illness much easier, like many, I was finding the coronavirus news, and the fact that my sister was stuck in Colombia on her year abroad, hugely stressful. I continued to suffer from recurrent shingles infections and made the decision to suspend my studies to recover without the additional stress of academic work. I am now making a good recovery and look forward to returning to my studies in October."

Catherine DixonCatherine Dixon

Kane Moylett, St Anne’s College, Law

"One of the many issues this past year has created is the inability to meet new people. Lack of a fresher’s week, not being able to mix with our year group, and virtually no college events has left us unbeknownst as to who many of the people we live with actually are. As restrictions begin to ease, we can begin to expand and meet new people, however this is still limited, and no where near what we would be having otherwise."

"Putting aside the lost opportunities, the people I have met have been absolutely amazing people, and of the few good things to come out of the past year, my friends at this university are definitely top of the list. The only wish is that this could have been the same with the many other people who live in the same college as me, and other colleges as well. My college has been rather tight on restrictions, with the majority of people remaining home for 1/3 of the terms this year. Hopefully, the next year group will not have to contend with the same issues we have, and with the vaccination programme they may not have to. Another hope is that we will be able to recapture the moments we could’ve had this year soon."

Kane MoylettKane Moylett

 Sam Williamson, University College, Engineering

Tony Farag, St Catz, Geography and Founder of Walk in My Shoes


If you would like to share your own experience, email