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Fifth-week blues

Phoebe Walls discusses the infamous bout of melancholy that strikes at the midway point of Michaelmas.

Freshers are confronted with yet another Oxford phrase, ‘Fifth week blues’. By reaching the fifth week of a busy term crammed with deadlines and social events, many students report feeling exhausted or down in the dumps at this stage in term. As fifth week draws to a close and sixth week is about to begin, I reflect upon my experience of this Oxford phenomenon.

Fifth week’s arrival marks the halfway point in Michaelmas. My flatmate told me she feels like we only moved in yesterday, yet time seems to be passing very slowly for me. It feels like a lifetime ago that my train arrived at the station. A room once bare is decorated with my photos. Many memories have already been made in this room, subjecting my friends to my Midnights addiction, and peoplewatching from my ground floor window. The amount of work I’ve done in these five weeks also amazes me. Many hours of enriching lectures later, whole notebooks are filled, documents form a large folder on my laptop.

Speaking of laptops, today I got the fright of my life at the end of fifth week, when I opened my laptop to submit an essay. A Sunday deadline at 1.45 pm loomed like a bad omen when I woke up with an Atik stamp on my hand. When I logged in, I was greeted with the terrifying revelation that my laptop had disconnected from all possible networks. When I searched for salvation in Pret, it did not even recognise this Wi-Fi. After running a troublesome trouble shooting test, a pop up informed me that I may be experiencing hardware-related problems, and this induced a hardware problem within me. I became the child of the exorcist, possessed by panic. How would I write my essays or survive without Wi-Fi? To make matters worse, Word appeared as white as snow and all my files said they were on compatibility view, so I was no longer compatible with my own files. As the blue banner of Microsoft Word faded, I felt the fifth week blues set in. I shut down my computer twice and turned it back on, but it continued to torment me. I had to take photos of my work and craft an email in German describing my problems that seems suspiciously more like just wanting an excuse to miss a deadline. My college brother came to my rescue by telling me simply to press the reset button. As if by magic, the files were restored, and the demon was back in her box. As a Bear Lane resident’s therapy dog patters past my window, I long for the love of my life, Tess. Stroking her fur relieves all my stress.

To cure fifth week blues Lincoln’s welfare officers welcomed Bertie, a beautiful golden retriever therapy dog. He sat stoically as his owner dressed him in an Oxford gown and mortar board. My friend discovered her abandoned gown coated in his blonde locks later that day but found it iconic. He posed for pictures, cuddled strangers, shook our hands like a gentleman. Bertie’s return to Lincoln’s JCR as an honouree member filled me with a joy like no other; the ultimate cure to fifth week blues is not to bury yourself in books or to join the masses at Bridge but to find a dog to love. Never underestimate the power of the reset button.

As sixth week calls, I look at my planner, boxes already stuffed with tutorials, translations, and essays. Although I feel like I’ve been here a lifetime and miss my bath and my dog, I don’t want to wish away these memorable weeks. I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks have in store. A lot happens in Oxford in twenty-four hours.

Image credit: Alex Block

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