The last day of my first year was emotional for various reasons. Not only was it the day after my final Prelim (first-year) exam, but I was also faced with sad goodbyes to friends I’d got used to seeing every day as well as the prospect of a long summer away from Keble. I’m quite a sentimental person, but a particularly reluctant goodbye was said to my beloved room – the site of many mint teas, microwave meals and fond first-year memories.
Keblites are lucky to get in-college accommodation for at least two of the three years they spend as an undergraduate. As a linguist, I’ll spend my third year abroad so will be guaranteed onsite accommodation on my return. Thankfully, my room for this year is equally as lovely (plus has an ensuite!) but there’s something about my first-ever room away from home that feels particularly special.
I remember arriving at my room in Hayward Quad on my first day last October and feeling I’d hit the jackpot. As the youngest child in my family, my uni room was about three times bigger than my box room at home, even though it wasn’t even one of the biggest first-year rooms! Having so much floor and desk space instantly made me feel calmer when I first began an essay, as it was so much easier to feel mentally uncluttered. The desk space is particularly fab and its glass whiteboard top meant it could be scrawled on during revision – particularly good for scientists and mathematicians!
Accommodation varies from college to college in Oxford, but rooms are generally very nice and often surprisingly cheaper than at other unis. I paid considerably less for my room than friends did for smaller rooms at other unis, largely because Oxford has shorter terms and students generally aren’t charged for accommodation during vacations. Although it was sometimes a pain packing everything up at the end of term, it was definitely worth it for the money I saved!
The location was pretty perfect too. I had the best view for people-watching as I looked straight out onto Keble’s college bar (left in photo) and Junior Common Room (JCR – behind the tree on the right!). Peering out and admiring Keble’s lovely brickwork often provided much-needed essay inspiration. Furthermore, looking straight out onto Hayward Quad was particularly pleasant during Trinity (summer) term, as many people sat on the grass revising, chatting and/or drinking Pimms.
I loved living in Hayward as it and its neighbouring block DeBreyne accommodate the majority of Keble freshers. This meant I was always very close to many of my friends and that if I left my jacket/wine/other necessity at someone else’s pre-drinks, it was never too much hassle to run over and pick it up. My proximity to the bar also made college bops (held there) particularly convenient, which also applied for pep talks and mid-essay crisis cuppas with neighbouring friends. In my first year, I shared a bathroom with one other girl; in most Hayward and DeBreyne rooms, students share with one person of the same gender, but almost all other Keble undergrad rooms are ensuite. I felt really lucky to share in first year as my bathroom buddy has become one of my best friends!
I brought some decorations with me to make my room feel as homely as possible. We weren’t allowed certain things, such as candles, but filling the space with fairy lights, fluffy cushions, posters, photos of family and friends and good luck cards made it feel mine. Beneath the large window, I was lucky to have a little sofa, which started off as a welcoming seat for chats over tea and biscuits but soon descended into a chaotic pile of clothes and books (sorry friends). Of course, I also had my lovely bookshelf which provided plenty of room for books, folders and other bits and bobs.
A real highlight of my first-year room was its “secret compartment”, the exact location of which I won’t disclose so as not to spoil future Keble freshers’ discoveries. Last year, after receiving a tip-off from a friend who found theirs by accident, I came across a little bottle of prosecco, a packet of Galaxy Minstrels, a bubble pot and a lovely letter from its mystery former inhabitant. They wrote to wish me luck in my first year and provided various top tips, from general Ox advice to how to combat the room’s sometimes-patchy signal. It was so sweet and put me in a great frame of mind to begin the amazing year I spent living in that room. Having done the same for its next fresher inhabitant, I hope they love their year as much as I did!