Old Boy John de Bhal (2012) is a current recipient of the Churchie Foundation ‘Overseas Study Scholarship for Old Boys’ and is currently studying at University of Oxford. John has penned the following recollections of his experience so far.

Studying at Oxford has been everything I hoped it would be. I have met some of the most incredible people one could possibly meet. It truly has been a blast. Let me tell you a bit about the first year of my Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in International Relations at the University of Oxford.

I am at Balliol College, one of the oldest colleges in the whole university. Some of its famous alumni include Adam Smith, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the UK’s current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It is an incredible environment to study in, with its own library and dining hall. Most of the sport and co-curricular activities at Oxford are done through the colleges in competitions called ‘Cuppers’. Oxford has three terms – Michaelmas, Hillary, and Trinity – and different sports take place within each term. In Michaelmas, I did rowing which I quickly discovered was not for me, before taking up cricket in Trinity. The college and sporting communities are been super friendly and welcoming.

The formal dinners have been one of the most fun social activities of the experience so far. Balliol has three big postgraduate dinners a year, each falling in a different term and each as extravagant as the previous. Imagine Hogwarts but without magic. That is what these massive dinners approximate.

One of the other quintessentially Oxford experiences has been the obligatory suit, tie, and gown for exams, affectionately known as ‘sub fusc’. The weirdness doesn’t end there though. Another whacky tradition is called ‘trashing’, which basically consists of a whole bunch of your friends showering you in champagne, shaving cream, and coloured liquids when you’ve finished your final exam for the year (yes, all while you’re in your sub fusc). You then go and jump in a river. No joke.

The tutorial system that Oxford offers has also been the most enriching learning experience of my entire life. Every two weeks I get to spend an hour with my academic supervisor, one-on-one to discuss my work. I’d write two essays for each tutorial, and we’d spend the whole hour talking about that fortnight’s material. It was so thorough, and I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much in an hour as I have done in my tutorials. The other students you meet are so brilliant and teach you so much as well.

One of the big perks of Oxford is the connections that both the university itself and its staff have. In addition to having lunch with Malcolm Turnbull earlier in the year, I currently find myself in São Paulo, Brazil at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas until October doing research for my thesis, all thanks to Oxford. I start my second and final year in mid-October and I can’t wait!

Thank you so much to the Churchie Foundation and the Old Boys’ Overseas Study Scholarship for their financial support. I am incredibly grateful for their generous contribution to my study. If you’re a Churchie Old Boy and are thinking about applying to Oxford, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be more than happy to chat and give you some advice. Please email the OBA at oba@churchie.com.au to contact me.