10 things I wish they’d told me a year ago

Student Life

August 2013: the tiny flashes of decent summer weather and the blurry vision of a post-results night hangover are fading away in equal measure, and the renewed perspective that this brings is hardly consoling. To my left, a pile of untouched books from the reading list grows ever taller with each Amazon delivery, and, turning away, towards the comforting glow of my Facebook homepage, I am confronted with what is, quite possibly, the least reassuring group ever devised: the 2013 offer holder’s page.  Between these two panic-inducing existents, I stumbled on towards Freshers’ week, terrified and nauseated in equal measure.

While I willingly admit that I am an unrelenting worrier, coming up to Oxford can strike an irrational level of fear into the best of us, and hearing this lot 12 months ago would’ve done me the world of good.

1. Ignore the “Offer Holders” group

PHOTO/ Sean Macentee
PHOTO/ Sean Macentee

Here, the never-ending stream of over-the-moon high achievers kindly sharing their A-level successes with their future course mates ( “18 A*S : HOW DID I DO THAT? WHAT DID U GUYS GET?- ANY1 AS GOOD AS ME? CAN’T W8 TO MEET YOU ALL (YES ALL 10.000 OF YOU!) IN 45 DAYS XOXOX”) seems difficult to interpret as anything other than a constant reminder that we should all have listened to good old Irwin’s advice and “go to Newcastle and be happy”.  But panic not: it has been scientifically[1] proven that everyone comes across a good 80% more eager/over-bearing/generally infuriating online than they do in person. In other words, it’s not remotely indicative of the kind of interaction the next 3+ years are going to be filled with. I promise.

2. Do, however, find your college one

PHOTO/ Sean Macentee
PHOTO/ Sean Macentee

That bug-bear over , it’s worth bearing in mind that college-based freshers/subject groups can be a handy place to get some genuinely useful information (when recently finished finalists aren’t too busy pouring out excess “help-I-can’t-find-a-job” energy on being a total troll). They present the perfect environment to track down college parents and harass them for every nugget of wisdom they’ve managed to digest over the past year, as well as being the go-to place for information about Bops, charity dos, matches, and any other JCR-based events and  initiatives.

3. Get the paperwork out of the way

PHOTO/ luxomedia
PHOTO/ luxomedia

Any day now, your college will be sending you the ultimate welcome gift for your delectation and delight:  an enormous wodge of incomprehensible paperwork. Hardly rocket science, but you’ll save yourself so much hassle by powering through and sending it all off, rather than, as I (perhaps foolishly) chose to do, spending the next four weeks marvelling at how it is still beyond the best university in the country (sorry Tabs) to devise a registration system that requires the death of fewer than 3 trees per student.

4. …and some of the reading

PHOTO/ Jwalsh
PHOTO/ Jwalsh

 

The reading list: bane of every Oxford student’s life, and ultimate measure of individual procrastination power. Top tip? If it says essential, read it, if not, save your energy- no one else will have touched the stuff that’s “advisable”. But make sure you at least own any set texts  for your course: one friend ended up spending almost £100 in a last-minute Blackwell’s dash to appease a testy tutor after he bought the wrong ones. Save time and money by hitting up second hand retailers and getting everything you need before going up.

5. Don’t go on a major spending spree

PHOTO/ Ana C.
PHOTO/ Ana C.

Regardless of what  Ikea, Sainsburys, Staples and Curries all want you to believe, you really don’t need to go on a pre-uni spending spree in order to survive. Not only is it ridiculously early to be thinking about what model of fridge to invest in (answer: none), the fact that most colleges are catered means you’ll probably find it in you to survive with a couple of bowls stolen from home.

6. Listen to your parents

 

PHOTO/ Ben
PHOTO/ Ben

(Genetic or college, both serve as occasionally handy life experts) “It’ll all be fine” may sound more like a way of shutting you up so they can go and worry about your younger and infinitely cooler siblings than a genuine attempt to make you feel better, but sometimes older really does = wiser, and on this occasion they’re right. More importantly, take advantage of enjoying their help now- your getting back after Michaelmas[2], used to the glorious new-found freedom of student life, means the claustrophobia of home, and your younger brother’s refusal to give up his temporary title of “the oldest” is hardly a recipe for domestic bliss.

7. Don’t worry about the vocabulary

PHOTO/ John Keogh
PHOTO/ John Keogh

“The only time you wear your subfusc in Michaelmas is for matriculation, then not until Hilary, during prelims- apart from your gown, of course, which you’ll need for collections at the start of Trinity and Hilary.” Wear my what?  Who are Michael and Hilary? And what are we supposed to be collecting in our gowns? As every Oxford-shaming tabloid hack loves to point out, one thing this university isn’t short of is antiquated, pretentious terminology, but don’t let this put you off, unless you study linguistics, nothing of any huge significance rides on being able to explain the etymology of the verb “to rusticate.”

8. Buy these

PHOTO/ Tesco
PHOTO/ Tesco

Ask anyone on my staircase last year who survived my constant evangelising about their amazing powers. The sub-zero blood sugars brought on by a first year baking penury induced by a jam-packed schedule and matchbox, oven-free kitchen is just one of many things that only a 30p pack of biscuits can resolve. Stock up now: thank me later.

9.It is 100% possible to write an essay on 2hours sleep

PHOTO/ umjanedoan
PHOTO/ umjanedoan

Not advisible, possible.

 

10. You’re there for a reason

PHOTO/ Lawrence OP
PHOTO/ Lawrence OP

Probably the number one thing I needed to hear when, before even arriving at my room, a friend at another college gets in touch to tell me her neighbour appeared on Child Genius. Despite being hugely valuable in the long-run, finding yourself confronted with people whose academic track record trumps more what you ever considered possible, and in 7 different languages, is liable to send the best of us into an abyss of fear and self-doubt. Add to this a “welcome” email from a philosophy tutor on day two informing you that he expects students to devise their own essay questions, and it can be easy to question what kind of administrative error lead to you being offered a place at all. Unlikely as it may seem, the majority of people will feel the same at some point during their degree, but on this one, you really do have to trust your tutors. As opaque as they may seem, they really do know what they’re doing decision-wise, and want you to be there, despite the passive-aggressive comments at the end of your latest essay.

 

[1] okay, anecdotally

[2] see 7.

PHOTO/Moyan Brenn

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