One of the perks about being an Oxford student is being able to attend formal halls. I must admit, one of my main reasons of choosing Oriel as my college was that it hosts formal halls six days a week. I won’t lie to you, having dinner in a “Harry Potter style” hall while suited up is one of the best things that could have happened to me. However, the best part of formal halls is the conversations you can have in them.
Firstly, let me explain what a formal hall is. Almost every college hosts two kinds of dinner: informal hall, which is pretty much the same food and environment you can get in a canteen, and formal hall, in which you have to dress up in order to have a three course meal in an old hall while interacting with Oxford’s finest.
As I mentioned before, the best part of formal halls is the conversations you have (although the food is extremely fine as well). When in doubt, while interacting with a DPhil candidate, always ask about their research. Everyone loves talking about their work and, to be honest, you might learn something interesting from that conversation.
I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again, I honestly feel that I have learned more in Oriel’s hall than in the lecture theatre. When thinking about Oxford, one can’t help but imagine a place in which some great people made discoveries that changed the world. However, these breakthrough discoveries are still happening today. Oxford researchers work every single day to make discoveries that will change the world in our day and age. Thanks to formal halls I have been able to learn about Oxford DPhil students’ subjects of research and that the word “Inflation” has a way more interesting meaning in Astrology than it does in finance (The Universe expanding faster than the speed of light is definitively more interesting than just a discount rate). As an Indiana Jones fan I was delighted to learn that there are still historians discovering forgotten temples and castles, and I had the chance to learn from medicine researchers about the way our body clock adapts to new schedules, which has allowed me to understand more about the way in which our body works. Finally, as a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, there are few conversations I would prefer over one with a Literature DPhil candidate in which we discussed how BBC’s Sherlock reflects on the original Arthur Conan Doyle story.
On the other hand, formal halls also give you the unprecedented chance of teaching something new to some of the smartest students in the University. I have to acknowledge that the first time I really felt like an economist was when I was able to explain the Coase Theorem and externalities in a market to a couple of Philosophy MPhil students.
In the end, every Oxford experience is different, but I would strongly encourage future applicants to the MFE class to attend as many formal halls as possible. Forget about Financial Economics for a while and learn about the different research topics that Oxford students have at the moment.Back to top of article