summer and second year

Summer is officially done, in case you didn't know.
Everyone has gone back to uni (except me), its dark by 7pm and I've started wearing pyjama bottoms.
It was a good one: warm, busy, long, relaxing, exciting. I read a lot, swam a lot, worked a lot, saw a lot of good friends and went to a lot of lovely places.

Some notable highlights, although so much of it was lovely, include:
finishing my last exam, being trashed by my bffs, drinking prosecco and swimming in the river
days running errands and reading and making spontaneous plans because I could
working 14 hour shifts, because they were horrific but funny and with a very dear friend
the most beautiful pre-birthday walk with my mum and dad, with beaches and wild flowers and crab sandwiches
a snatched birthday lunch in manchester, catching up with vassia
walks and coffee with my oldest friend, trying to soothe her pain (eternally proud of this g)
a warm languid day on the beach, with berries and laughter
some stunning and fulfilling runs
Italian sunrises, sunsets and devouring books in less than a day
reading under olive trees
a last minute trip to Durham
drinking coffee and reading in bed
swimming in the north sea at sunset
eating fish and chips, also at the beach, and also at sunset
picking blackberries
drinking kolsch and exploring churches
riding my bike
eating hummus and drinking g&ts on a portuguese balcony
floating in the sea
coffee with dalal
a blissful slow breakfast in a friend's garden in Oxford, with coffee and reassurance

Its been a long, lucky summer. When I haven't been somewhere near the sea, in the sun or with my friends, I've been on the front step reading, day dreaming at work, spending time with family, or perhaps somewhere near a library. I didn't realise I need so much recuperation, and feel very full of good places and beautiful sights.
Next week, I return to Oxford. Both apprehension and excitement prevail. Apprehension because academia, intensity, all my friends being in relationships (rip), change. I'm quite used to this life where I disappear on holiday, go to work, read and not much else. But I am also excited, I really am. I need to inject some youth into my reading, knitting, cake baking life. I'm looking forward to decorating my room, running in the meadows, going to the pub, debating, swooning, dressing up, reading. I've got a lot of projects too, which will be stimulating/interesting/exciting.

Scholarly girl autumn, hit me. I'm going into 2nd year hoping for positive food attitudes, maintained eco dedication (plastic free shampoo, fruit and veg markets), time to read fiction and a full immersion in all parts of oxford life.
I also really wanted to use my film pics for this post, but boots has stopped developing them >:(

musings: Leonard Cohen (Suzanne, Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye, So long, Marianne), The High Low (any episode, the one with Deborah Francis White is rlly gd), Diary of an Oxygen (an uncomfortable but thought provoking read), this exhibition

golden friends

here's some pic of a really fuckin' nice week I had with one of my bffs. They are quite irrelevant to the words, but be assured the 4 days were spent eating, drinking, swimming, chatting, reading, doing impossible crosswords, stupid quizzes (our favourite entertainment), drinking coffee and lying in the sun. Bliss, if you ask me.
Also, the pics are either mine or Libby's. I can't distinguish between the two, other than Libby's are probably better. Check out her blog.

this was t-h-e most beautiful place I have ever swam. Ever.

But really, I wanted to talk 'bout friendship. Something I am both stressed and blessed by. I worry a lot about friendship, I'd say its a pretty top tier worry. It's not really something people talk about, if you have a lot of friends you're succeeding and showing it, if you don't your failing and also showing it. Its one massive, lonely, ambiguous taboo.
What even constitutes as 'a lot of friends'?? In an episode of HighLow they said, apparently scientifically, you can't have more than 4 or 5 friends. Now, I dispute this. How can something so subjective be empirically proven? You have so many different friends, for different reasons, in different places.
But friendship always feels like something you have to show you have. And something that is always compared, in my head at least.
I have some fucking brilliant friends. I mean ace. I am utterly blessed, but I still worry about it. Do they like me? Do they like spending time with me? Do I have enough? All unbelievably futile questions, worthless. I'd hope if I didn't like someone, didn't enjoy spending time with them, didn't feel enriched by them, I'd be proactive enough to just not. But I still question it, and compare myself to their other friends. It's very self-destructive.

But here are some things I adore about my friends. They need some appreciation.
I love my friends who make my laugh, let me cry and complain, who are the antithesis of my stress, but tell me they love me for it. I adore my friends who debate with me over pasta, advise me and tell me where I've gone wrong. I love my friends who play cards with me, read with me, who are just present in every capacity, and whose presence feels so nice. To whom I can tell any thought, at any time. I adore friends who respond to my declaration of a random 3 hours in their city, and for whom that time is never enough. Friends who spend days in the pub and on the beach, and suggest last minute trips; who buy you cereal bars when you're sad, send you postcards, and allow you to soothe their pain. Who listen to you, give you space to talk and space to think. Friends who do friendship quizzes (i'm telling you, do it!), who celebrate achievements, encourage you to think differently, act differently, and be unapologetically yourself.

Lying in the Portuguese sun, after a stressful and somewhat un-fruitful trip to a supermarket, Libby asked which friend I'd want in my life forever. And it's impossible to say. I feel almost full from all their different offerings and warmth, I don't want to lose any part of it. Any part of me.
Wow this is cringe and uncharacteristically sentimental, but necessary. I am currently navigating that odd liminal space between home and uni, between these friends and those friends. Its strange but a happy reminder of how much I love both.
So, I hope you enjoyed the pictures at least. A lot of love to Libby, in whose presence I always feel most myself and with whom my summer ended in a golden peace.

first year

I am a veteran of first year hysteria. Not an unusual achievement, but one none the less. Condensing a year of happenings into a few summative words is futile, but I learned a lot, grew a lot, met a lot of people. It was scary and overwhelming, but stimulating and fun. Mostly amazing, but some bits awful (see 8th week hilary term), and just a whole lot of very exciting and very intense learning and adventuring and experiencing.
I have a vivid memory of the first day: my mum had left, my room was a mess, and I called my dad thinking "what the fuck do I do now". The panic was crushing and consuming. But gradually it becomes ok, you go and explore, chat to people, go out, and you cope, and ignore the anxiety of 'is this right', and slowly you grow and enjoy and flourish, until it becomes your life.
So that's where I am at now. It is a part of me, and I adore it and the people and the stimulation. I no longer worry whether its right or whether I enjoy it, partly because the doubt is pointless, and mostly because I know the answer. Above all else, remember it takes time. Allow it to happen.

This is, of course, very specific to my experience to oxford, to history, to me. So whilst some of the advice is generic and universal, some of it is very Oxford focussed.

1) academia
  • the workload is high, but relative. You get on with it because you have no choice, and each week, despite a Tuesday night panic, you've handed in 1 or 2 substandard essays nd can go to the pub
  • mediocre is enough. Just hand some words in (especially pertinent if essays are formative, but even where they aren't)
  • it can get too much–I cried a bit, complained a lot, felt angry that my friends could go to the meadows when I had an essay crisis, nd didn't beat around the bush raising issues–everyone feels it, speak out!! 
  • for historians, rarely (if ever) read full books–skim, use the contents, read reviews, choose articles, randomly select passages and hope for the best–reading lists are too long to focus on one dry 600 pg book 
  • also don't read a full reading list (I have max 5 days to read and write an essay–tutors recommended 6-8 items, i was lenient with this)
  • manage ur time–I hate the 8-8-8 rule, instead I prefer dividing my day into 3, working 2/3rds, and having the evening off 
  • find your best structure, for me waking up super early and working was optimum (because i go into a slump around 4pm)
  • revision: in oxford, we have 'collections' (mock exams) at the start of every term, they are a good way to prepare revision materials and condense reading, if you don't have them, perhaps act like u do and review the material anyway!
  • I relied almost solidly on my essays, essay feedback, a few new readings, a lot of wikipedia (yes!) and my collection notes to revise–I didn't look at lecture notes once, nor really notes from reading (waffly and exhaustive)
  • For any Oxford historians, Trinity term is very enjoyable, but also rough. They don't let you stop, but just take it slow, go home, have a bath and breathe

2) living away from home
  • balancing washing and cooking and sleeping and self-care and socialising and working is rlly fuckin hard, but if you just muddle your way through and make sure ur eating ur 5-a-day, you'll be okay
  • send letters and postcards home, because receiving them back is lovely - see if u can persuade someone to send care packages
  • talk to your family, go home, and don't get into the headspace that it shows weakness (I was fixated on this)
  • tomato pasta sauce is the basis of everything 
  • keep in contact with friends away from uni!!!! I neglected this initially, but they're a necessary breath of fresh air, reminder of a bigger world and chance to rant/support/gossip
  • take as many nice home comforts as poss (would recommend nice sheets, cushions, postcards/souvenirs, a lamp and mugs)
  • if, like in Oxford, you don't have kitchens/they're really far away, a fridge is really handy and one of these sponges is essential (!)
  • get people to visit! Its so nice to show people around your new city, and can be more manageable than going home 

3) socialising
  • its exhausting; exciting and stimulating but exhausting 
  • it doesn't have to be all done at once, so slow down and chill out
  • I wasted so much of Hilary worrying about friends. I needed to get out of my head, and breathe
  • be open minded, it won't replicate your groups or friends at home, and thats beautiful, friendship comes in all forms, and all are valid 
  • everyone feels a bit lonely nd quiet sometimes 
  • oxford taught me the value of treating people, there's a culture of buying your friends chocolate or sending them a card or taking then out for cake and its really fuckin good and heart warming 
  • some really good evenings last year involved tea with friends, so take supplies
  • At oxford, embrace college life, its a blessing for making friends and belonging

4) money
  • I can't emphasise this! enough! transfer a set amount each week into your account as a budget
  • £5.50 for a pint is ridiculous but its also ok to do it!
  • unless necessary, don't be obsessive about limiting expenditure, relax nd b sensible ! (because it cultivates neurotic control which! we are trying to fight!)

5) food
  • my relationship with food improved at uni, I was with more relaxed people and in control
  • but this of course has the potential to tip too far, I found retaining structured meal times helped a lot, but also allowing flexibility when I wanted
  • i also looked at other people with the most liberating attitudes to food and saw how happy they were, and that i'd rather be having fun than in control
  • cook for others!!! we cooked communally every night and it was so fun and cheap, and nice when you were stressed
  • veggie eating can be soooo cheap (my faves include shakshuka, fajitas, chilli, thai green curry, tomato/pesto/roasted veg pasta–good books include the Leon vegan book and '15 minute vegan comfort food', also @we_are_food)
  • communal kitchens are grim, if you have them; keep ur sponge in your cupboard (ours were gross, as we had 3 kitchens collectively, but they were also so fun and communal in every sense, and the arguments were hilarious)

6) anything else
  • say yes to everything, with everyone, even if its awkward, even if you feel like your imposing 
  • but also (and I can't emphasise this enough) take time for yourself, alone, in bed or on a walk, or in a cafe, otherwise you'll burn out (wise words from a tutor)
  • pre-paid washing machines r the shittest things ever 
  • you will be amazed by how long you can go without washing your bedding 
  • oxford is like no where else, and your experience like no-one else's, comparison is futile
Second year is looming, with the prospects of our inaugural feminist society, rowing, netball, and a million other things. I'm apprehensive of the unknown, and also the known, but am reminding myself of memories of last year. I will probs talk about my feelings for 2nd year in depth, alongside any other snatches of wisdom that emerge.
Any questions or tips leave below xo