Packing up: reflections on a first term
It feels as though I’ve been at Oxford for both years and mere seconds. 8 weeks doesn’t sound like a long time, but humans adapt quickly, and somehow Oxford life already feels like the only life I’ve ever lived.
But 8th week has come to an end, and it’s time for this student to leave the Oxford bubble and return to civilian life for a short while.
I want to talk about two things today – packing up (and the challenges thereof) and general reflections on my first term at university. Oxford was always presented as a perfect, shining beacon of promise to me, and it’s been interesting reconciling the views I spent my entire life building up and the realities of university.
So, packing! I didn’t realise just how much stuff I’d bought during term until I had to (try to) stuff it all into the same space I’d packed everything up in to come here \(QAQ)/. I opened my closet, and just…well. Me being me, and also a lawyer, I eventually gave up and decided to approach the problem in a different way!!! After a chat with my scout (the warm, kind-hearted people who clean your room and give you life advice) we decided that I should just leave a bunch of stuff in the kitchen instead of taking it home :D. Perhaps it’s a bit cheeky to avoid the issue outright, but my arms will thank me when I’m hauling my substantially lighter load to the train! College policies on leaving stuff over vacation vary, although most colleges will at least provide a bit of space for international students to store things.
It’s weird, though, to think that I only began studying here 8 weeks ago. I’ve done more work in the past 8 weeks than I did for my entire History A-level. There have been times where I’ve looked at the amount of work I had due in and wanted to cry. There have been times where, 4 hours into an essay and feeling like I’d never be able to finish, I sat down on my bedroom floor and sobbed my eyes out.
And yet. And yet, I didn’t miss a single deadline. I did more work than I’ve ever done in my life – more work than I ever thought I’d be able to do – and somehow, I came out on top. Looking back on the essay I handed in during 1st week, my writing style has completely changed. Academically, I’m just not the same person any more. When I see a 3 page long reading list, sure, there’s a trickle of dread that I won’t get it done. But there’s also the knowledge that I can handle it, and that I will handle it. My subject (law) may be complicated, but it’s also engaging and a fascinating discipline to pursue at university. There’s a resoluteness that Oxford has drummed into me this term that I’ve never had before, and I kind of love it! Oxford has given me a will of iron and determination of steel in the first term alone, which is pretty awesome.
Reflecting on the social side of things, too, I think I’ve changed as a person. I was so scared about not fitting in at university – I’m not a huge drinker/partier, nor am I the most sociable person – and there were definitely points where I experienced varying forms of ‘imposter syndrome’ during term, or felt that I had no friends (which in and of itself is strange – consider how long it’s taken you to make the friends you already have, and then consider whether it’s reasonable to expect to magically make BFFs within the first week).
Those fears of not fitting in are absolutely natural! And turned out to be absolutely untrue. I’ve ended up making really close friends, and finding so many people like me here at Oxford. I take part in societies, I meet new, interesting people almost every day, and it’s just – it’s incredible, really, how easy it has become to socialise here. Sure I still get nervous over social situations where I don’t know anybody – most people do, right? – but it’s as I said above. The me of today isn’t the same as the me who started at Oxford, and whilst I’m still shy and introverted, I don’t get struck with the same panic over these things that I once did. You only have 8 weeks in a term, here – there’s just no time to waste on panicking when you could be doing twenty-thousand other things!
What I’m trying to convey, in the end, is that I’m happy here. Oxford isn’t the flawless porcelain statue I’d built it up to be in my mind. At the same time, it’s stupidly satisfying to study at this university, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every time I overcome a challenge I never thought I’d be able to (so every week, really), I just – it’s almost impossible for me to put into words, at least when confined to the space of one blog post, but it’s such a confidence boost. You learn to believe in yourself, at Oxford. You learn to push through any fear holding you back, to knock it aside and to focus on the next challenge, instead. And it’s true that there are terrifying times, and upsetting times, and that you’ll get homesick and the scent of Indian food will make you cry because you miss your mum’s cooking. But it’s also true that there is a place for everyone at this university, and that you’ll find yours eventually.
Oxford is a crazy, crazy place filled with the most fantastic people and the most ridiculous workloads. I can’t wait to come back for next term.