Hard-earned advice (from three years of being a mess)
Hilary is undoubtedly the worst term of the year. The excitement of Halloween and Christmas in first term has gone, and there’s still five months to go until the sun will finally rise once again for the summer. For many, Hilary can be a period where it’s easy to feel quite lost. I, as a third year, want to offer up some hard-earned advice from my time at Oxford, that hopefully will make this drag of a term a bit easier to swallow.
1. Take lots of photographs. Be it on your phone, or with a real actual camera, you’ll regret not recording even the silliest moments when you’re gone. I think there’s about 5 inches of my wall not covered in pictures, which provides a nice reminder that fun does in fact exist for when I’m in dissertation crisis mode. Take enough pictures to make 40-year-old you jealous. They’ll long for the days of wrinkle-free fun.
2. If you’re the mum friend, make sure to occasionally give yourself some me-time and make your mates carry you home for once.
3. Don’t worry about collections. The literal worst case scenario would be to get 0%, and your tutor might give you a disgusted look – and that’s it. They are the mockiest of mock exams, and have absolutely no bearing on your prelims grade whatsoever. Speaking of prelims, also don’t worry about them. Hindsight makes me wish I hadn’t punished myself so much in my first Trinity term. While it’s a good way to test the waters of how revising for Oxford exams works, don’t skip that punting trip that all your friends are going on for the sake of exam that you really only need 40% on.
4. Trash responsibly – don’t trash your friends with eggs. They will get their revenge by trashing you with baked beans.
If you’re planning on jumping into the River Cherwell after you’ve been trashed, bear in mind that last year, a dead rat floated past my face. Depending on how much that concerns you, make your own decision.
5. Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to feel like you are doing less work than everyone else here, and that no matter how hard you try, you’re never good enough. The thing is – everyone else also feels like that. When you feel tired, stop. Have a cup of tea. Go to a friend’s room for a chat. Go find a new coffee shop in town. You’re not an essay-writing machine, you are a human who is allowed to do human things sometimes, and to not punish themselves for having a break.
6. Find your people – they do exist! I’m sure you’ve heard the classic line from older relatives: “university is where you’ll meet your best friends for life”. While some of you may have, and some of you may think you have, some of you also haven’t – and that’s okay. If you’re a fresher who hasn’t clicked with anyone in your accommodation, don’t fret. You have so much time left to find your people, and trust me, they’re here somewhere. At risk of sounding cliché, branch out and join sports clubs and societies that you’re interested in; literally everyone else there will share at least that interest with you by definition. Maybe you’ll also share other interests too, after all, recipes with oregano are usually tomato based (profound).
Some of you may have platonically loved and lost in your time here. Friends tend to come and go. I mean, just go through your Facebook friends list; there will be at least 200 people there that you haven’t thought about since year 8. Just because you’re feeling lonely now, doesn’t mean that you will forever.
Friendship groups are super incestuous. Your friends will sleep with each other, and there’s nothing to do to stop it. If you are one of the friends sleeping with each other, don’t keep it secret from your friends – that’s a really bad idea. Also, wear a condom.
7. Don’t mix port and Baileys. Just don’t.
Also, we’ve all thrown up outside Park End. Anyone who denies it is a dirty liar.
8. Try lots of new things! What’s the point of coming to a university with so many sports and societies to only stay in and work? Have a go at a martial art, write for a student newspaper (wink wink), go kayaking down the Cherwell, or even go to some life-drawing classes. I guess rowing is also a very Oxford experience to give a go too, but if you do, please make sure you’re able to hold at least one conversation a day without mentioning it.
Also, learn how to cook. Please, do it for me. I also used to think that I could get away with eating toast or an Uncle Ben’s ready meal every night. Then, I discovered that my organs would shut down if this continued for any longer than 5th week. Plus, cooking is a great way to procrastinate, and your tutor will accept “I was making dinner” as an excuse over “I was tagging my mates in memes” for why your essay was late.
9. Be nice to the people you share a toilet with, else they’ll leave the seat up every single time.
10. Invite your friends from home to come stay at least once, so that you can feel very smug showing them all the pretty buildings. That smug feeling will rapidly evaporate when they in turn show you their termly workload. Swings and roundabouts.
11. Mix up the libraries you work in. There are over 100 of them to choose from! College libraries have a unique charm, the Taylorian has a lovely view over St Giles, and all the others also have different qualities suited to different people. This one is more of a reminder to myself to actually go to the Rad Cam, which I haven’t managed to enter in my 3 years here. Maybe that’s why I’ve never got an Oxlove?
12. Speaking of Oxloves, if you haven’t got one yet, it’s because you haven’t written yourself one. I guarantee at least 80% of Oxloves are self-written in the hopes a friend will tag them, the person that they fancy will see, suddenly realise what they’re missing, and profess their love. I doubt that tactic has worked for anyone yet.
13. On a final note – there is an old saying that if you don’t leave Oxford with a first, a blue or a husband/wife, you’ve done it wrong. That’s total rubbish. Make your time here what you want it to be, not what other people expect it to be.
I hope these nuggets of wisdom have helped, or at least made the thought of the next 7 weeks/months/years feel less daunting – I made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Godspeed to all.