I can’t quite believe that at this time two years ago, I had just finished my Oxford interviews. It feels such a long way in the past, but as I’ve met some of the interview candidates this week, it’s remarkable how quickly the feelings of anxiety and ‘what-is-the-interviewer-thinking?!’ come flooding back.
This year, though, I’m on the other side. I’m the cool, calm, collected second-year who just strolls through college, knowing all the door codes. I’m the one who sits down confidently in hall with an air of authority. I like to think so, anyway. At the very least I (albeit maybe tenuously), somewhat resemble those first and second-years that I remember meeting during my interviews. I’m also the girl who doesn’t appear to be embarrassed to run only towel-clad through college to get to the showers (interviewees – the same will happen to you).
The strangest thing I’ve noticed so far is how serious everybody is. I came to interviews expecting not to get in and planning to have a fun couple of days experiencing student life, seeing what other potential linguist were like and possibly even doing my Christmas shopping! These 17-year-olds seem so intent on mapping out their future that it puts me to shame. Perhaps eighth-week apathy is still lingering, but I could definitely do with a bit of what they’re having. Gone are the evenings chilling with and getting to know other interviewees in the JCR or a coffee shop and instead, more and more people are spending time in their rooms, worrying about what awaits them the next day. I’m not saying that interviews aren’t a big deal, but they’re also the best university taster you’ll get, apart from a summer school like UNIQ. At interviews you really do get to meet a huge variety of people and the chance to spend a few days living and working in a real student environment. It’s also a final check to see if Oxford’s the kind of place you’ll want to spend the next couple of years in.
Thinking about it, there’s actually quite an age gap between the interviewees and I. So much, it seems, that this week I was mistaken for a politics tutor. Slightly rushed off their feet, the interview helpers had positioned (and then left), a nervous-looking politics candidate at the end of a corridor, with the promise that the interviewer would come out to collect him when it was time for the interview. This so happened to be the corridor on which my room, the only other room than the politics tutor’s, was also stationed. Meanwhile, thinking that three coffees in one morning is probably a bit too much on the caffeine side, I got up and left my room for the inevitable loo break. Unbeknownst to me, the young (and extremely smartly-dressed) interviewee thought that this was his time to shine. Apparently knowing absolutely nothing about his tutor (perhaps it would have been wise to Google him beforehand), this prospective politician presumed that I was he. Completely unaware of this guy (I had just had three coffees, after all), I smiled and tried to pass, at which point he leapt up, grabbed my hand and proceeded to shake it violently, all the while introducing himself. It was with great embarrassment that I had to let him down, but I don’t think anyone could have been quite as red-faced as he was. After offering his apologies, I tried to assure him that I would have done the same (I wouldn’t have), and that his handshake was going to make a great impression (if not on the interviewer’s mind, then definitely on his fingers). Thankfully, when I returned from my break, he had already gone in for his interview. I hope his encounter with me didn’t distract him from the task at hand; I’m fairly confident that as a future politician, he’ll have many more awkward meetings to come.