Let’s catch up.
Since I last posted on this blog, a lot has happened.
I’ve been back at university for two weeks (which is a quarter of the Oxford term!), and in those two weeks I’ve volunteered, been ice skating 5 times, read 3 French plays and 4 Russian short stories, written 3 essays, handed in 4 translations, watched and discussed a French film, given two mini-presentations in Russian, submitted applications for two micro-internships, and lived in a cycle of extremely up and extremely down moments. Oh, and have been to lectures, of course.
It’s been intense, to say the least.
But with three-quarters of the term left to go, the deadlines are just going to keep coming and I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Like most Oxford students, I’m in this strange grey area, excited at learning more about the subject I love and bettering my understanding and skills yet dreading the late nights, the mountain of work, and the stress of getting everything done on time.
In all the chaos, I’m starting to feel lost – but without the time to find myself. During term time, I can’t escape the feeling that whenever I’m doing something fun, or simply necessary for my mental health, I should really be working. Right now, at 22:03 on a Saturday night, that’s how I feel. I need to write this blog, to take a break from 17th century Russian literature, to get my thoughts and frustration out somehow; but I have a nagging voice inside my head saying: “Charlotte, what the hell are you doing? So what if you have a headache? So what if you’re tired? You have an essay due on Tuesday. And another one on Friday. And translations. You don’t have time to be writing some stupid blog that no-one’s even going to read!”.
Oxford undergrads often joke about the seemingly impossible workload. It becomes almost a competition, with everyone trying to prove that they have the most work to do, the least time to do it, are the least prepared. Being overwhelmed with work almost seems like something to be proud of; and when you end up spending time trying to convince others that you are way more underprepared than they are, in some act of mock-reassurance, you end up convincing yourself that you are doomed. That you have no time, that you can’t possibly get everything done before the deadline. Then the panic hits you.
But in this culture of deadlines, you have to reach for the lifelines. And the lifelines do exist; not only are there hundreds of different extra-curricular activities and societies you could get involved in, but colleges have their own internal support networks designed specifically to help you when you are feeling lost and overwhelmed.
These last two weeks, the collegiate support system has been invaluable to me. My college has something called a Dean Team, which is basically a group of postgraduate students who have been trained in counselling, first aid, and peer support. They take turns working shifts from 7pm-7am, and all day on weekends, so that there is always someone available to come and help you, especially during those late night essay crises where things get all too much. Personally, as someone who has severe depressive episodes, things can also get dangerous when they get too much.
But the Dean Team have helped me through those times, and I guess that by writing this post I just wanted to thank them again for that… and to let any potential applicants know that whatever you might hear about the stressful nature of an Oxford degree, there are support systems in place.
I definitely don’t mean to scare people away from applying; there are so many great things about studying at Oxford, and I’ll definitely be talking about them in future posts. I just really needed to talk about this today.