Life Shifts, Reading Lists, and Great Wizards

As the start of Trinity Term* approaches, emails from tutors containing reading lists and reminders to hand in vacation work come into my inbox with increasing frequency. I can’t help but feel a strange mix of dread and anticipation; I don’t feel ready to be thrown back into the intensity of the Oxford term, and yet I’m also excited about it. It’s not just that I’m excited to see friends again – I spent most of the holidays with two of my closest friends from uni – I think I genuinely am just excited at the prospect of learning more about the subject that I love.

But the dread is there, too. I know that the work can be hard, there is always lots of it and little time; term only lasts for eight weeks.

What can you do in that situation, though? You just have to try to get as prepared as possible in the time that you have left, and that’s exactly what I’ve been attempting to do over the last week or so. I’ve read plays, short stories, learnt vocabulary, read over previous essays… but I still feel like its not enough.

I think one of the problems with studying for a degree at Oxford (or any university, really), where your teachers are leading experts in the field, is that you never feel like you have quite done enough. They will always be able to point you to further reading. They will always be able to make suggestions for improvement. And this is perhaps even more applicable when it comes to languages – what does it mean to say that you have “learnt” a language? When will you be able to say, unequivocally, that you have learnt enough vocabulary? That there is no more to learn, that it would be impossible to throw you by giving you some weirdly specific technical passage to translate, or perhaps a list of slang?

Yet to quote J.K Rowling/Harry Potter:
“Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now; students. If they can do it, why not us?”
And it’s true! It might be hard to remember, but it’s definitely true. These expert tutors (or great wizards) were once, more likely than not, panicked, drunken students. So it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, it’s normal – but if you keep working on it, little by little, you will get better and maybe even surprise yourself.

Who knows; one day, you might be one of the greatest wizards – I mean..*ahem*.. muggle experts – of all time.

I hope you have a great day, week, year, etc.. and I’ll see you again soon, reader.

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*The second term of the Oxford year. The terms are named Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity after some biblical reference that I don’t quite understand… or, to be more exact, couldn’t be bothered to look up. If you know and would like to bring me out of this state of ignorance, please leave a comment!

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