I didn’t always dream of studying at Oxford. My decision to apply was made in a split second, panicked, mere days before the Oxbridge deadline. Of course I was aware that people all around the world had been planning to apply since primary school, or even earlier, so I thought my chance of getting in was a limited one. Yet here I am, in my second year studying English Literature and Language at one of the greatest institutions on the planet.
I suppose I cannot complain about my choice. However, with the very little and clearly insufficient research I did on my course, my college, and the university itself, it is hardly surprising that I haven’t found myself in the most suitable environment for me. Oxford can be an exceptionally challenging place, with its constant workload and resulting stress, and somehow I managed to make it even more difficult for myself.
Michaelmas Term of my first year was abominable. I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, and plagued by imposter syndrome – something that I never thought would affect me so dramatically. Then came Hilary, in which the sole constant was drinking; it was what can only be described as a manic, messy two months. I barely remember it, but everything I do remember was atrocious. With the sun and blazing temperatures, Trinity Term brought some resolution to a profusely stressful academic year. Despite the upcoming exams, everything seemed to calm down. I successfully completed my Prelims without a hitch.
Then the relentless cycle began again. Michaelmas of second year was dire. I threw myself into everything that Oxford had to offer: rowing, editing, writing, being on the JCR committee, tutoring, and more. There is an expectation at Oxford to always remain busy, no matter how much energy it drains from you. For some, it can feel like a toxic environment, whilst others thrive with the hustle and bustle of it all. At the end of 6th week, I reached my breaking point and escaped Oxford for the week. That week away was a saving grace for me and, looking back, I have never felt prouder for allowing myself a short but necessary break. I returned for a week before the Christmas vacation saved me from my torment.
Now, we’re back in Hilary term. There has been improvement since the last; I have not been tempted to drink through bottles of spirits on a daily basis, for which my liver feels much gratitude. But each term is still a struggle, which is why the advent of Halfway Hall is so comforting to me.
Reaching Halfway Hall is a huge achievement for me, and I honestly don’t believe that I am alone in this mindset. With such high expectations as an incoming fresher, it can be devastating to realise that the ‘dream’ is actually far from paradisiacal. Oxford is exhausting – there can be no doubt about that – and for some, it is a battle from start to end. Halfway Hall is somewhat of a beacon of hope. Its very arrival offers a small sense of relief that this degree will end. I have been counting down the terms and the idea of surpassing the halfway point brings me so much joy. Although the dressing up, the awards, and the food will all be lovely, I’m sure, they really don’t matter to me that much. It’s all about the principle: not long left to go.
I’m sure some people do genuinely enjoy their time here, but I know there is a vast amount of students who do not. It is those who await Halfway Hall so eagerly, not for a night of celebration, but as a sign of accomplishment. We have made it halfway: there is less to come than what has been – and that is a truly satisfying thought.