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    How can we make the most of Oxford’s eight-week frenzy?

    Nina Naidu reflects on the nature of Oxford's busy but short eight-week terms, and how we might make the most of everything on offer.

    There’s nothing that irks me more than non-Oxford students complaining about a ten week term, weekly lectures, and measly seminar reading. It’s not like they even go to those anyways. And let’s not forget about the reading week spent skiing in the Swiss Alps. So when my non-Oxford friends ask me whether I’ve ‘caught up on my lectures’ (not that I have any), I really need to spend some quality welfare time with the college cats. Let me put it this way: we have a different lifestyle over here at Oxford. A lifestyle that I can barely even keep up with myself.

    I am often told how lucky I am to only have eight week terms. I’m not even here for half the year, so what’s the big deal? I had no idea that at other universities, summer terms are spent for revision and exams. I remember only too well the stress of juggling Prelims revision and Italian language classes hoping for even a moment to sit in Gail’s and contemplate life. We may have 0th week — but it’s hardly the same when you’re busy moving back in and cramming collections revision. The work is compressed into two months in which you find yourself jumping over essay hurdles, praying that your chatterbox tute partner diverts the conversation away from that pesky reading you never got round to doing. There is not enough time to do so many essays, and sometimes I feel like I come away from tutorials knowing nothing. Yet, I have friends from home with only two essays a term. Two! And here I am with two essays a week if I’m lucky. The mental marathon that is expected of you far outweighs a genuine interest in your reading list, for that information will have to be stored deep within the recesses of your brain until those final exams. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I couldn’t say. Somehow I just know that I have been conditioned to the Oxford lifestyle.

    But maybe other universities have it right. At my boyfriend’s university for instance, their Uni glossary includes words such as ‘academic calendar’ and ‘collusion’, whereas we have to define the word ‘Commoner’ and ‘Bulldog’ (which I myself still don’t really understand). And don’t get me started on the College family system. While I have found Oxford’s collegiate system to be a welcoming support bubble, I have been met with some serious side-eye when discussing ‘college parents’ and ‘sub fusc’ to my friends back home. College families are a sweet welfare idea in your first days as a fresher, but once you mention how your college made you marry your own college sister…it does get just a bit too ridiculous. Even the Oxford bubble is constricted between colleges. Our lives are incongruous to each other. I couldn’t imagine life at another college, let alone another university. Since we all slaved so hard to get here, we might as well romanticise it. The only thing universal about university is the struggle. But at least I get an Oxford degree out of this, right? All this hard work will certainly be worth it.

    The university experience is one bound by the restrictions of time. If only we had the time to enjoy the weekly formals, college bops, and annual balls — though this is still a sore subject for my fellow Hughsies — maybe I would not feel bittersweet jealousy when I see others living an ‘easier’ university life. We have found ourselves in a place where we are surrounded by tradition and glamour, yet we have no time to enjoy it. Certainly, one could say that such pressures exist at all universities but with the distinct experiences presented to Oxford students, it’s almost a shame that participating feels like a guilty pleasure.

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