Congratulations. You made it. The denial that life extends past August can no longer be tolerated. The countdown to university begins and nightmares of being imprisoned in Ikea by a scary tutor because you didn’t buy the right bed sheet become all the more frequent, whilst your parents cry ‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN YOU’RE AT UNIVERSITY’ whenever you fail to work the washing machine or carry out some other seemingly basic domestic task. But have no fear and take a deep breath, for I am here to quell all your fears and advise you on how to prepare seamlessly for Oxford life over the next few weeks.
nightmares of being imprisoned in Ikea by a scary tutor become all the more frequent
Inevitably the packing process will become the bane of your life as your parents insist you need the contents of your whole kitchen and hold frequent discussions as to the best way to fit your wardrobe in the car. Don’t worry too much about packing up your entire room six weeks before term starts, but perhaps begin by making a list of essentials – there’s always one who forgets a duvet and has to sleep under a dressing gown for the first week! Bear in mind that every college is different so check out your college’s website and read the information they provide about accommodation. Many even offer an open day for freshers a few weeks before term starts, and this is a great chance for you to check out the available facilities (kitchen, bathroom etc.) and potentially the room you will be given. If you have this opportunity, take it, as it’s a good way to suss out what you’re realistically going to need for the coming year.
There are a few boring but essential items I would recommend that can make Oxford life that bit smoother. First of all, a printer; not compulsory (there will be a number in college and in all the libraries), but with 9am deadlines, sneaking off to the printing room in mid-December at 4am is not ideal – particularly if you forget your keys. Plus for those doing essay subjects, printing notes and essays once or twice a week, having a printer in your room is a major convenience – so it might be something worth investing in. Also incredibly useful is under bed storage. The size of Oxford rooms can vary, and these can provide essential extra storage space without creating unnecessary clutter, leaving the floor free for your socks, the thousands of leaflets you pick up at fresher’s week, and your gown. A final essential item would be mugs, tea being nothing short of the elixir of life in Oxford. Even if you don’t drink tea (or coffee) and by some bizarre twist of fate neither do your friends, they can serve as great pen and toothbrush holders.
Another way to save space is quite literally by not bringing the kitchen sink. All colleges are catered, although there are kitchen facilities at most. Again, it might be useful to check your college’s website to see how often they serve food, and therefore how often you will have to fend for yourself. If you’re as useless a cook as I am (baked beans are my speciality) bringing two plates and bowls and a few items of cutlery will suffice – my parents were pleased to know that the brand new pan they bought me served as a fruit bowl/scrunched-up-paper-holder for the entire year. However, if you do discover your inner Heston Blumenthal, Oxford is not so far removed from civilisation that the local shops cannot provide you with whatever else you might need.
Now onto the dreaded reading list, which has probably been haunting you since college kindly sent it to you months ago while you were mid-exams. The reading lists can look long and scary, especially when books reach inordinate amounts on Amazon and seem impossible to find in your local library, leaving you to wonder what kind of rare, thickset volumes your tutors have set you. But don’t worry about tracking down each and every book mentioned– unless your tutor has specified set texts that you must read and buy, don’t try to get through the entire list in six weeks. Warning: people will try and claim they’ve read everything and more – ignore them. Choose maybe one or two books (probably the first few on the list) and have a flick through, as it’s good to get an idea of the kind of books you’ll be reading during term time, and try at least to get a feel for the topics you will be covering, even if this involves going through other mediums, like documentaries, films, or novels that may be related to your course. Don’t stress about reading lists but do at least try to wake your brain up from the three-month hibernation it’s undoubtedly been in.
Most importantly, however, forget about buying the right kind of bed sheets or wondering what on earth a sub-fusc is: fresher survival rates at Oxford are relatively high.