Day 1...when it comes to anything, 'Day 1' always tends to be a bit scary because it means you're entering something new but day 1 at OXFORD UNIVERSITY, well yes, it can feel absolutely terrifying.
In the summer prior to starting Oxford, I was buzzing; I just couldn't wait to get there. Then, as the weeks went by and my friends headed off to their other unis, I was the last one left at home and as the days grew closer, the excitement began to be mixed with overwhelming nerves.
I went through my freshers' pack again and again, trying to work out my various outfits, timetables and events I'd like to take part in. It was set to be a busy week. I also had another barrier to contend with; I'd been suffering from a long-term illness since the age of 11 and my life was becoming increasingly restricted. How was I going to manage when I got there?
My biggest fear was being labelled; I just wanted to be 'Tilly' turning up on day 1, not 'Tilly the girl who's ill'. My college understood this and let me unpack my stuff a few days earlier, so no one saw the chests full of medication and medical gadgets I needed to get through the term. I was given a ground floor room, just a few steps from hall and it was arranged that someone would get my books and bring them to me, so I didn't have to walk to the libraries. I didn't share this with anyone and arrived on day 1, just like everyone else. If you're in a similar situation, then please be aware there is so much support out there at Oxford, so do tell your college. There is also, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your personal circumstances with your peers; this was just my way of dealing with it but as time went on, it became impossible to hide and my friends and classmates were really supportive.
At my college, the families were invited for a drink in the JCR to meet our principal. My parents were so unbelievably proud and, though my tummy was full of butterflies, I was totally in awe that I'd actually made it here. Talking to the principal was intimidating in itself, as well as the thought of going up to the other freshers standing around the room.
After this, we headed back to my room to unpack my last few bits. I remember looking out of the window and seeing a group of students already bonding on the bench in the quad...everyone was making friends already, I was going to miss out! The panic set in; of course this was so silly looking back, we had weeks to get to know everyone!
Then it was time for my parents to leave and the tears started. I'd always been pretty good at talking to new people but the whole situation was just overwhelming; I was being left at the top uni in the world; the buildings were magnificent, the hall was like something out of Hogwarts, the tutors were world experts, the principal was an actual lord and the other students were obviously going to be cleverer than me - I had impostor syndrome to the max. On top of that I had the added stress I'd put myself under, of attempting to hide a whole different side of my life, that I was certain I didn't want anyone to know about.
My parents suggested I took some deep breaths and went for a walk around the block; so that's what I did and by the time I walked back into college, the tears had dried up, I put a big smile on my face and entered the JCR. I spotted a girl I'd met at our college 'Babies' Weekend' (an opportunity for subject groups to come to Oxford for the night to meet their classmates - not every college does this) and as we began chatting, I thought maybe, just maybe I was going to be ok...and you know what I was!
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