Reflecting on Second Year

So, after 24 weeks, my second year at the University of Oxford has come to an end. It has been a busy one and not one I am going to readily forget.

This year has left me physically and mentally exhausted. Just for perspective, in a 24-week academic year, I have done:

  • 25 essays
  • 2 presentations
  • Over 130 pieces of reading for those essays and presentations
  • 6 pieces of orchestration
  • 4 pieces of analysis without an essay
  • And a dissertation proposal with a lot of extra reading towards it

This is also a relatively light year for an Oxford student… Safe to say that work has kept me pretty busy! The weird thing about humanities (and some sciences) in Oxford is that you don’t have exams in your second year so you are actually in a constant state of limbo; you don’t have anything scary looming at the end of the year but everything you do this year is on stuff you will have to do for finals. It’s an odd feeling doing one topic in October 2015 only to be examined on it in May/June 2017. But that’s Oxford for you… It’s actually led to a slightly anti-climactic end to the year, with no big blowout following exams or dramatic end to my degree. It’s a bit like reading A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin and I’ve only just completed Part One.

A photo montage of my second year

Now, it may sound like all I have been doing is futilely writing essays. Not true! I’ve been trying to do as much playing as I can and experience brand new things. I’ve done 10 concerts and an opera! I played my first solo concerto (which I wrote a separate post about), sung and played two requiems (sung Fauré, played Brahms) played The Rite of Spring again and finally done a Tchaikovsky symphony (No. 4 to be exact). I’ve tried to do as much music and as much variety as I can because next year, that all comes to an end. Oxford finals are pretty intense and doing three+ musical projects a term is not the way to approach them.

It also hasn’t just been music. My friend Daniel is a great photographer and did a photoshoot towards the end of our second term. This was something I had never done before, but seeing as it was run by one of my housemates, I felt like it was something I should just try. It was surprisingly fun and the photos were amazing. You can check out more of his incredible photos here:


Credit – Daniel Cunniffe

I’ve also experienced independent living as my college does not have accommodation for all three years. I actually think this is a really good thing; it has taught me to be independent and it is nice to have that sense of removal from work and home. Because I love to cook, having a kitchen has made my life so much easier than last year. Not being able to control what I ate last year made me very unhappy but this year has been so much better. Every student should be able to cook and every student should get a big non-stick wok (you have no idea how useful and how cheap they are) and a travel mug (save you buying coffee every morning before lectures).

This isn’t to say that second year has been perfect. I have had my struggles with work and personal confidence, especially when doing work that I don’t find interesting or find incredibly difficult to get into, or when it just gets too much. It has taken me a while but I have now learned that sometimes, it is better to take a step back from the situation for a couple of hours or even a day. There have been times this year where what I have been doing seem pointless or is making me utterly miserable; in these cases, I just had to stop or it was going to get even worse. But, overall, these moments have been very infrequent. You have to make sure that you are happy before anything else.

So, second year done! Now to third year, and finals…

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