Reflecting on my first year at Oxford, here are some of my own mistakes delivered up as sage advice for a new cohort. Coming from a seasoned third-year, I wish I’d…
- Not purchased and packed half of the IKEA homeware range.
Perhaps I’m a little late with this one, seeing as many may have gone out and purchased their kitchen and crockery items soon after results day. As much as I loved cooking during my first year – it’s a great way to gain independence, as well as make friends – I really didn’t need to pack five plates, four sets of cutlery, two massive pizza plates, and enough bowls to stock a small buffet. While I would recommend purchasing a small number of essentials, such as those covered in IKEA’s student essentials crate, I wouldn’t recommend going overboard; remember, you will have to lug it all the way to uni, all the way back at the end of term, and up goodness knows how many flights of stairs in between. There are plenty of shops in Oxford where you can purchase any essentials you’ve missed, so don’t overpack to the extreme!
- Learned how to budget… properly.
A detailed sheet with every single one of my expenses, incomings and outgoings, wasn’t at the top of my list at my start of university. Admittedly, I am very thrifty when it comes to food shopping and that has served me well, but I wish I’d kept a closer eye on my finances during my first year. Although your student loan may at first seem infinite, making it far easier to spend on treats or takeaways, it’s worth remembering that it has to last you an entire term – maybe even the holidays too. Working out where to cancel an unused subscription here, or scrape a few pounds there, can leave you with quite a neat little stack of money at the end of term. This in itself is a great habit to get into; both at university, when you get given a lump sum of money every few months and have to make it stretch until the end of term, and, in time, after you graduate and have to start managing substantial bills on your own. It is important to keep a keen eye on your finances by sitting down, going through your bank statements, and making use of spreadsheets available on Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to track your spending holistically.
- Not been afraid to go to my support network for help
First year at any uni is a big step for anyone, but the first year of Oxford? It’s crazy! Students can often get the feeling of being isolated and alone despite living in halls or large groups, and if you find yourself feeling this way it is important to acknowledge this and talk to someone about it. Talk to your family, your friends from other universities or from home, and share how you feel – more often than not, your friends will understand how you feel and maybe even feel the same way. It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick every now and then, and at times like this calling home can be incredibly comforting.
- Gone to my lectures!
Admittedly, it was very hard to sleep through lectures for my first year, as everything was online and we could watch them at any time. Luckily, now that everything is back to normal, lectures are still very much on – yes, even the ones at 9am on a Friday. I would advise to go to your lectures straight from the get-go, as getting into the habit of going now is crucial for your second, third, or even fourth year of university. Lectures are a great way of covering content that isn’t mentioned in tutorials, or for refreshing a topic already discussed in a tutorial that week. I know that my ancient coinage lectures were a great time to catch up on topics or reading that I’d missed in classes that week, and also offered me an amazing chance to talk to one of the leading academics in the field of numismatics. This is Oxford, so the chances of your lecturer being the person who wrote the handbook on your subject are higher than you might think!
- Gone out! Made friends!
This might seem very obvious , but finding the time to socialise, go out, and meet new people can be really hard if it’s not something you’re used to doing. I had not – and still have not – been to club nights, although I have been getting more and more involved in student journalism and other societies since my first year. Through these activities, I’ve managed to meet a lot of people and make some really great friends that I’ll keep in touch with after I’ve graduated next year. Freshers’ Week is the perfect time to do this, as it’s one of the first chances most first-years will get to meet other people outside of their immediate colleges. You also get a rare week to go to club nights and parties without the worries of a hangover impacting your work, lectures, or classes the day after – an incredibly unusual occurrence in Oxford, and something to make the most of for sure!
Overall, some of the friends you make at university – whether on your course or by other means – will be friends that you keep and take with you throughout your twenties and life as a young adult, if not further. One of my biggest regrets from my first year was not taking the time out to socialise, meet new people, or make an effort to hang out with them, despite the Covid-19 restrictions in place. It’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat as you, and probably feeling just as nervous!
Image Credit: Jess Buckle via Pexels.