Intern Abroad

Research internship at the University of Oxford

September 7th, 2023 | by
  • Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Engineering, B. Sc.

    May Day at Magdalen College Tower
    © Benedikt Wahl

  • United Kingdom, Oxford
  • University of Oxford
  • 04/2023 – 09/2023

The questions, I probably got asked the most from friends and fellow students, is how I got the research
internship at the University of Oxford. That’s hard to answer since there is no clear path for that as far as I
know. I wrote e-mails to multiple professors at different institutions both in England and the United States
and one of them got back to me and offered me the internship in Oxford. Although there is always luck
involved, there is definitely one thing, I’d like to point out. Those professors get tons of similar requests
from maybe similarly suitable candidates. Hence, the application should be tailored to the lab in order for
the professor to even open the CV. In any case, I would always just give it a go and try it out.
Something to consider is that research internships are often unpaid. Although there are some scholarship
programs for internships in place, the money, you get, won’t cover all living expenses.
Regarding housing, the most convenient way is to text the housing officers of the colleges (I wrote an e-mail to all of them) and ask if they got free housing during the internship period. I got an offer from Exeter College and was really happy about it because it was easy to organize it from abroad. At the colleges,rent is usually paid per day, and comes in around 600-900£ per month from what I’ve heard. Something
that everyone should keep in mind is that the National Healthcare System (NHS) works different from the
German healthcare system. So I would highly recommend to register with a GP right upon arrival
because that gives you (1) an NHS number and (2) allows you to go to a GP faster when you need it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know that and when I got sick, the earliest appointment, I was offered, was seven
days in the future. To get a faster appointment (at a private doctor), private travel health insurance can be

Duke Humphrey’s Library at the Bodleian Libraries
© Benedikt Wahl

very helpful. With that, I got an appointment the next morning.

So far this might have sounded a bit pessimistic but as soon as I got to Oxford, all the organizational
hustle was made up for. Hosting the oldest English speaking university in the world, the city is rich in
history and traditions which they preserved over the centuries. An event that I’ll never forget is May
Morning. On May 1st people from all over the city come towards the tower of Magdalen College. At 6 a.m.,
the bells of Magdalen college tower ring and the college choir sings to welcome the month of May.
Afterwards everyone walks through the city where plenty of other events take place. This tradition is
ongoing for over 500 years.
In general, the college structure makes Oxford stand out. To be part of this community as an intern, the
best way is to become an associate member of one of the middle common rooms (MCR). The middle
common rooms can be explained as a society for all graduate students at a college. Each MCR has it’s
own constitution which describes the conditions under which you can become associate member. At
Exeter College, that was pretty straightforward for me since living in their accommodation was sufficient
to request entry into the MCR. With the MCR membership at Exeter College, I got many perks including
subsidized lunch and dinner in the college’s hall (the dining room for students) as well as 24/7 access to
the college’s historical site. My favorite events, I could also attend thanks to the MCR membership, have

View from the garden of Exeter College over the Radcliffe Camera, University Church St Mary and All Souls College
© Benedikt Wahl

been formal dinners where we had really fancy food and dressed up in suits located in the college’s hall.
Formal dinners have been part of the college life for a long time and many traditions have been kept over
the centuries like the throne for the rector in the case of Exeter College. Besides the colleges, there are
as well plenty of other clubs and societies. In contrast to German universities, many of the sport clubs are
thereby really competitive since they compete on a national and international level. In general, Oxford is a
great place to connect to like-minded people from all over the world.
At work, there are some differences to German universities. To begin with, research groups tend to be
much smaller resulting in most professors supervising less students. My professor supervised just 4
students (including PhD candidates) and 2 post-docs. In addition to that, most researchers came to work
later than in Germany, resulting in the start of a typical working day just around 9 in the morning.
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay in Oxford and I will definitely stay in contact with my supervisor there in
the future.

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