Worried about the pressure of studying at Oxford? Given all the stereotypes about work-loads here it's completely understandable that you might be worried, but perhaps one of the least well publicised aspects of Oxford life is the support systems in place throughout every college to help students manage and talk about the stresses and pressures of university life. As the undergraduate Welfare Representative for Christ Church, I thought I'd let you all in on all the great, behind-the-scenes work the Welfare teams get up to over the year, and what made me want to take up the job!
Every college has a slightly different way of doing things, but at Christ Church, once a year the undergraduates vote for one male and one female Welfare Rep (that's me!!!) to join the college-wide Welfare Committee, which sounds really serious, but is just made up of loads of different reps, one for first year, International, BME, LGTBQ+ and Disabled students, as well as some real adults like the college nurse! On top of all of these people looking out for the students, Christ Church also has eleven Peer Supporters, which is a fancy name for undergraduates who have had thirty hours of training with the University Counselling Service in the best ways to listen to others, and in how to best to deal with a whole variety of crises! Christ Church Welfare reps have to be Peer Support trained, making them really good people to have a cup of tea and a chat to about anything that might be stressing you out. At Christ Church we run a drop in session with a 'Peer Supporter' every week, you can go and meet them in one of Oxford's many cafes and talk about anything at all that you might be having trouble with, no matter how big or small! Our amazing LGTBQ+ Rep Ross has started running drop-ins too, meaning that there are twice as many opportunities to catch up with someone who is more than happy to just listen!
Another great opportunity to talk to people and relax is the weekly Welfare teas run by the reps. There is usually hot drinks, biscuits, cakes, crisps, hummus, fresh fruit, and loads of new people to talk to! As well as this, last years reps ran all kinds of fun events throughout the year. We had tie-dying sessions, mug-painting, made and sent Christmas cards to students on their year abroad, took part in a 'childhood marathon' with boardgames, Beyblades, Lego and Disney, held a college sports day with BBQ, Zorbing, Sumo Wrestling and rounders (on top of Boxercise, Kung Fu and Yoga which ran throughout the year), and even had a Chocolates and Jazz festival in our college bar. Exam stress was tackled with loads of helpful information in a super useful booklet handed out to all the students, as well as termly massages in the common room! One of the most thoughtful projects that happened this year was the 'Welfairy', where students nominated their friends to receive a goody bag with sweets, bubbles or tiny toys, usually with a kind note reminding them how well they were doing! Sometimes it is the really little things that make someone's day.
And all of this support is just on a college-level, there are always events happening throughout the university to bring people together, solve issues and make people feel heard! From group dog walks in the University Parks, to LGTBQ+ socials or workshops on relaxation techniques. Though Oxford terms can be intense, there is lots of support available all year round and plenty of people who are more than happy to help! Nobody has to deal with everything alone.