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


  1. looove this post - the education part has made me feel very motivated to get back to Leeds and fucling! be! a ! top ! student !

  2. Keep rocking it, just another amazing post!


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