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Profile: Gregory Cuff

White man with blond hair wearing boat club jacket

Gregory Cuff (2021, PPE), JCR International Rep

Gregory is in his second year studying PPE and is the International Rep for the JCR Committee. In this profile, he discusses changing his mind about his degree course, his favourite library and Nando’s. 

Why did you choose to apply to Univ/for PPE?
I wanted a course that used a fair bit of maths but didn’t want to read maths alone. I had ruled out most of the sciences as well since I hadn’t taken physics in school and I didn’t enjoy biology or chemistry.

Eventually, I decided on economics but discovered that Oxford only offers economics in combination with at least one other subject. Looking through the options, I settled on PPE since I found politics and philosophy fairly interesting as well. I first considered Univ because it had one of the largest PPE cohorts. I thought it would be a good thing to have more tutors for the subject and more people on the same course as me in college. Whilst I didn’t have a chance to visit Oxford before I showed up in Michaelmas, I knew I also wanted one of the older colleges. And, everything I read online about Univ was positive. In the end, though, I chose Univ over the handful of other colleges I was considering because the boathouse looked nicer and I knew I wanted to give rowing a try.

How do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
Hopefully, I know a bit more about philosophy, politics, and economics. I’m also a few kilograms heavier after starting a weights program in the college gym. Although it’s a standard answer, I’m probably more confident too.

What’s your favourite part of Univ?
Univ is very ordinary, in the good sense of the word. Most other colleges have their distinctive strengths and weaknesses (sometimes more of one than the other), but Univ is good across the board. It’s centrally located, has accomplished tutors, a competitive boat club, a typical college choir, nice old buildings, and plenty of Oxford traditions without being excessively archaic. It is, literally, the prototypical Oxford college.

Four Univites wearing Univ t-shirts at race

Team Univ always shows up for the Oxford Town and Gown 10k. This year, over 60 Univites participated.

Has anything surprised you about Oxford/Univ/your course?
I didn’t expect philosophy to be so mathematical and structured. I guess I thought it would be like an English literature course in secondary school. I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit more than I thought I would. For second year, I’ve dropped politics and kept philosophy and economics. But if you’d asked me at the start of last year, I thought dropping philosophy would be the obvious choice.

Do you have any advice for freshers and/or prospective students?
The advice my college parents gave me was not to be intimidated by any of the grand accomplishments that people humbly share in anonymous online discussion pages or first-year group chats (especially for PPE students). If someone says they read the entirety of J.S Mill’s writings before starting their GCSEs they’re quite likely exaggerating. Or, they may well have done, but it turns out they’re also really terrible at maths and economics. Don’t bother comparing yourself to other freshers/applicants; if you have the grades you need and are interested in the subject then you have a perfectly good chance of getting in. And, after that, so long as you do what your tutors ask of you, you’ll do well.

Greg in rowing boat Why did you run for International Rep? What would you like to achieve and/or what would you like students to know about what the International Rep can do for them?
I thought being the International Rep was a good way to get involved with the JCR and it sounded like fun.

Although I’ll be replaced in Michaelmas, I ran a few different events last year and I’ll organise a dinner for new international students in Freshers’ week. Typically, international events are subsidised excursions to places of British cultural significance, like Nando’s. I’m also here to help answer any questions international students might have, whether logistical (visas, phone plans, bank accounts) or cultural (why the British Isles lack the technological prowess to mix hot and cold water in a single tap).

Any tips for settling into Oxford?
Try lots of things and find out what you enjoy. And explore the city, especially all the libraries. I like working in the Gladstone Link, beneath the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian. Some people think it’s too dungeonesque, but it’s always empty, has nice chairs, and the wifi usually works.

Describe Univ in three words.
Clever, Convivial, Captivating

Find out more about the JCR Committee.

Published: 5 September 2022

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