Agony Aunts: Oxford Woes

Image Description: A mix of newspaper cuttings with the words ‘agony aunts’ written in block letters.

This week, Elsie and Sonia tackle problems relating to that sweet sweet Oxford lifestyle. Surprisingly, neither concern those weird subfusc gown streamers or the fear of bumping into everyone you know at the Magdalen Street Tesco.

I feel like I haven’t made the most of being at Oxford! I haven’t joined any societies or met many people outside of college but doing things online really just sucks. – 1st Year Law Student

E: There is something to be said about the insidiousness of Oxford FOMO culture, but at the same time if you want to get stuck in, get stuck in. Yes, Zoom meets are nothing like the real thing but if you want to join the Psychedelic Society or the Kpop Dance Society, why not give it a go? At least with the Internet, you can quietly click away from things you don’t like and, since most societies are fairly cheap to join(*), this could be a good way to find out which ones you actually want to be involved with once Covid-19 finally decides to pack it in.

Who am I kidding? Societies only really exist to host drinking events which cannot be replicated via Zoom: Liberation and Liquor, Port and Policy, Drink and Draw and crew dates. Take the Oxford Uni Liberal Democrats (OULD), for example, whose entire existence depends on its a) £1 membership fee and b) £4 entry to Spirited Discussions. Its selling point is the unlimited food and drinks, and I suppose the actual debates. If, for some reason, five rum and cokes give you an overwhelming urge to discuss Ed Davey’s(**) party policy. Is anyone who attends Spirited Discussions an actual Lib Dem supporter? No! Is anyone on the OULD committee either? Probably not. Is this an advertisement for the OULD’s world-famous Spirited Discussions event to be held virtually this term on the Wednesdays of 4th, 6th and 8th week? No, but, it could be(***).

Thanks to good old Covid-19, it’s sort of impossible to ‘make the most’ of being at Oxford right now. But, there are opportunities to be taken advantage of if you like judging the guest speakers’ living rooms from the safety of your sofa or getting sloshed by yourself in your childhood bedroom, gazing blearily into your webcam and asking whether God is real(****). Ball’s in your court, Fresher!

(*) Excepting The Union That Shall Not Be Named and its £286.34 membership fee. You could buy more than 80 Najar’s wraps with that same money. I know where I’m investing mine.

(**) Yes, I did have to Google who the current Lib Dem leader is.. 

(***) OULD committee: if you’re reading this, get in touch. 

(****) Example given completely unrelated to this author’s own personal experience. 

I’ve never written an essay without crying over it at least once.

This includes GCSE essays, it’s that bad.

Question: how do I get over my actual FEAR of writing essays? I feel sick about doing them most of the time now.

Elsie and Sonia, how do I make it through any stage of planning, drafting, reading, or citing without leaving tear stains on my notebook xxxx – Second year English lit student

S: Please, please calm down my dear. Deep breaths. Did you cry writing this question too? It’s okay if you did *soft pat on the back* but good gracious, aunty is here.

From your query, your fear seems to lie not in the essay process itself, but in your very ability to complete it. Where is all this stress coming from? You are a second year — you’ve done this plenty of times. Not every essay needs to be an extraordinary literary discovery. Some weeks, your essays may be absolute shit. That’s fine. Yes, your academic success is important but, if you are in constant fear of failure, your self esteem will crumble along with your work. If someone has not told you recently enough, you are capable. You got into this university, didn’t you? If you didn’t just ignore that.

I know there are weeks that seem downright impossible, but in those weeks, remember to take a breath. Go for a walk around Christ Church Meadow (that’s what I always do). Think about your own ideas without any paper in front of you. Try to return to that passion for reading and writing that you had before it became all about assignments. An essay is just your pretty thoughts on a page, so make that Word document your canvas. Your aunties are rooting (and a bit scared) for you. xxx

Got a problem that you think merits the attention of the Agony Aunts? Submit it to us HERE!. Good advice not guaranteed.

Yours in agony,

Elsie and Sonia

Art by Iona Shen