Letter To: My Incoming College Children

You will make friends, you will fit in. Plus, you always have our college family!

Dear College Children,

Knowing that I’m about to become a (college) mother has forced me to realize that I’m no longer a carefree fresher anymore. On the one hand, that’s kind of scary, because first year was genuinely the best, and fastest, year of my life, and the fact that I’m already a third of the way through my degree is a very weird thought.

However, it has also made me think back to how I felt this time last year, when I barely knew anyone and had no idea about all the fantastic things in store for me. So even though I’m looking back on it with happy nostalgia, I’ve got to admit – this time last year I was pretty terrified.

When I started Oxford, I could count the number of people I already knew here on one hand. If you’re in the same situation, I sympathise with how nerve-racking that is. You’re propelling yourself from a fairly comfortable situation back at home, where you know the routines and the people. And even if it’s not a particularly happy situation, it’s your normal. To suddenly give that up and move hours away from where you live is a naturally scary thought, and I can only imagine what it must be like for international students.

Prior to coming to Oxford, it’s likely that your initial impressions of most of your peers-to-be will be based solely on their social media accounts. I remember it seemed to me, getting to know people through group chats and Facebook pages, that almost everyone was either intimidatingly intelligent and dedicated or effortlessly cool and collected.

However, after talking to these people (some of whom are now my close friends) in person, I soon realised that they were all just as down-to-earth and kind as my friends back home – where some of the students at my school went straight into work or an apprenticeship.

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You will make friends, you will fit in. There are thousands of people at Oxford, and the vast majority of them are really, truly friendly – plus, you always have our college family!

The other thing that worried me – and which I think is another pretty common theme – was the workload. As a History student, I must admit, I feel I get less work than a lot of the more science-y subjects. However, the flip side of that for me is that the vast majority of History work is independent, and so I’m completely responsible for organizing myself – a daunting prospect as someone fresh out of twelve years of time-tabled school days.

But yet again, looking back on it now, I wonder at how stressed I was about it. It’s another one of those things where everyone’s in the same boat, and the tutors understand that it takes a little while to find your feet. They’ll support and assist you along the way, because they want you to succeed.

Of course, some of them are a bit intimidating at first but it’s worth remembering they’re just people too, and helping you reach your potential is literally their job. Plus, you’ll have the rest of your subject group as well as a ton of other support options available to you if you’re struggling – so don’t feel like you’ll have to deal with your issues on your own.

So, my college children, I am incredibly jealous of you for being at the start of a fantastic chapter of your lives! Oxford isn’t always easy, but the good parts definitely make it worth it. If you need help adjusting, there will be a million people who will go out of their way for you, whether that’s tutors, welfare officers, peer supporters, or your newfound friends. So just try to relax, and remember: enjoy freshers’ week and beyond!

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Lots of love,

Your College Mum