By Isobel Merriman
As I walked through College on a brisk October day last year, laden down with boxes, bags and nerves, it was hard not to feel completely overwhelmed. Fresher’s week is a whirlwind of new people and places and though I had an amazing time, it’s completely okay that at times I had to retreat to my little room for a cup of peppermint tea and a breather. Especially this year in these “strange and unprecedented circumstances” looking after your mental health should be a top priority this coming freshers week.
I put a lot of pressure on myself when I first arrived at Oxford, anxious to do as much as possible, meet as many people as I could, be the very best version of myself and prove I deserved my place academically too. I overthought what to wear, what events to prioritise and who to sit next to when I went to those events. But the thing is, I really didn’t need to worry at all. Fresher’s week is just that – a week. After that you’ve still got a whole term to explore all that Oxford has to offer and to meet new people, both in College and beyond.
It’s all too easy to worry about the first impression you might make and drive yourself nuts debating between a skirt and jeans, heels or trainers, ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ – but in a week or two no one will care (or even necessarily remember!) I promise.
I recommend balancing your time between meeting new people and looking after yourself. Whether that’s taking some time to listen to some music and get your room just how you like it, or taking a wander around Oxford to find your new favourite coffee place – the time you spend alone is just as important for settling in as the time you spend with new friends.
There’s nothing wrong with needing space from the intensity of Fresher’s week and learning how to manage stress and be kind to yourself is an important part of thriving at Oxford.
I can only imagine the nerves many of you may be feeling, arriving at Oxford only to be met with social distancing measures and new rules, but honestly none of these things will hinder you meeting and befriending new people. I didn’t make my friends in clubs, I made them on college tours, or in the queue for dinner. Post-lockdown, just spending time with people without distractions has been the priority and this will only make forming meaningful friendships at Oxford easierthis October.
So take a minute, put the kettle on and breathe!