Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Home sweet home away from home

Seeing all my friends go off to uni, one by one, should have meant that when the time finally came for me to make the *long* journey up to my new home, I was prepared. Naturally, I wasn’t. Last weekend was a hectic mix of shopping, salvaging and hair-pulling.

Packing to go and live somewhere else for the next 8 weeks straight was quite a strange experience. I kept finding odd items in my room, such as an old autograph book I'd forced my 10-year-old friends to sign, or fairy lights, and then deciding that they might possibly be vital. Universities have varyingly vague rules about what is appropriate to put in your room – for me, blu tack is banned, and any intriguing appliances like a sandwich maker aren’t allowed because of the fire risk. When it all came down to it on Monday afternoon, I had a suitcase, a soft suitcase, a big blue box, a small blue box, a cardboard box without a lid, two larger cardboard boxes with lids, and a slightly frowny expression on my face. I wasn't ready to move out and go to university. I felt (and still feel, 8 days later) about as mature as a little Year 7 who spends the entire lunch time playing 'running' in the playground. Doing serious work with people who are all really smart and articulate and confident? The only appropriate response is "pffft," really.

So, I rocked up to my college in Oxford feeling intimidated and unworthy. The sight of the beautiful building that would presumably be my home for the next three years (assuming I don't fail - oh yeah, you start worrying about that pretty soon) was alternately amazing and terrifying. As soon as you arrive, you are directed to collect bits and pieces of admin from the Freshers Week team (who rock, by the way!) before beginning the long laborious job of lugging your luggage up three flights of stairs. Having spent a summer largely loafing on the sofa and moaning whenever the remote naughtily removes itself to outside my 1m reach, I probably benefitted from this minimal exercise.

Then unpacking begins. My favourite feature of my room is definitely my gigantic pinboard which I immediately decorated with photos of my friends and family - I printed off 30-odd photos at Boots which was definitely a good investment. I did extremely well on the room front overall, as I got a bit of a say in where I would want to go, but really this varies by college and university. I also brought a Beatles poster, which makes it look as though I have a much better taste in music than I actually do. There are lots of miscellaneous bits of kit that I wouldn't have considered having to own and make me feel pretty domestic, such as a dishcloth, tumbler glasses and a healthy supply of Otrivine (Freshers' Flu has hit, by the way. Three days solid with a gravelly manly voice and forcing my poor friends to listen to me hack up a lung instead of being able to focus on a lecture on the joys of logic). 

After unpacking, I said goodbye to my mum, which was emotional for her and embarrassing for me (kidding, Mum, I'm kidding) and then twiddled my thumbs in my room for a while before summoning up the courage to throw myself into the sanctuary known as the Junior Common Room (JCR). It has not been a week and I cannot count how much money I have wasted playing pool and the Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old? arcade game (evidently, despite being 18+ years old, relatively capable university students, we are not). One of my biggest worries, and it remains a big worry, was that I would hop up to an unfamiliar person, throw out "HiI'mEmma-I'mdoingPPE-howaboutyou?" and they would look at me like a squashed pigeon before telling me "finalists don't mingle with freshers..." When I was interviewing, the older years helpfully wore pinks scarves to enable easy differentiation, but now we just have to trust fate and general common sense.

Thankfully, everyone has been lovely. I hopped into the JCR and it was stuffed with a load of happy, talkative freshers who are all just as eager to make friends as you are. One of the best things Oxford does is to organise college parents for freshers, which is actually quite a big deal - freshers of different subjects pair up rather soon after the start of term, necessitating full on proposals (I've already heard stories of a proposal involving a lift and a heart shaped flower arrangement) and by next September they are mentoring two new freshers who look to them for advice, subject-specific and not, throughout their first year. Mine are absolutely lovely and extremely kind which seems to be the general rule! We went out for drinks with them, before heading off to dinner with our subject reps and classmates. The evening ended with a trip out into town as a group, where everyone bonded over some very amazing bad dancing. I flopped into bed on Day 1 feeling overwhelmed, but a little bit more confident than ever before that I was going to fit in.

I hope that's given you a good overview of my first day, and I'll be posting soon with updates on the saner parts of freshers' week and, of course, my first proper pieces of work. I really want to use this blog to give good advice, now that I feel as though I have genuinely learned so much from my experiences ever since I started this blog a year ago; so if you feel as if I could help with anything, or you want me to point you to someone who can, please comment below and I will definitely get back to you.

Now it's bedtime for me. Up early tomorrow for a General Philosophy lecture!

Emma xxx


  1. Early for a lecture that starts at noon? ;)

    1. Hahahaha ;) Well anything before.. hmm... 2pm is early for me! Also I am very flattered that you even read this because of your general awesomeness on TSR! :D

    2. If I am being honest I skipped most of it, and that last paragraph caught my eye :p But I have now gone back and read it properly :)

      And now lets go to bed in order to not make a complete mockery of the "it's bedtime" statement!

  2. Are you able to share how you prepared for the TSA? Did you manage to finish the entire paper?

    1. Sure. I bought a book called 'Thinking Skills' by John Butterworth which gave me some help, and then I did all the practice papers, not necessarily to time, but close to time. I also did OCR Critical Thinking AS practice papers as it's similar content. My first mark on the TSA was about 36/50, in the actual exam I think I got 43/50 or something. Finishing the paper wasn't a problem but when I was revising the first thing I did was make sure I could answer the question rather than rushing; you can rush through them later when you're more confident.

    2. Did you do much prep for the essay question?

      I've been told that some colleges use them a lot, and others delegate the brief reading-through to third-years ... Is it mega important? How can one get good at the timing?

      Thanks :)

    3. Hey! I don't know much about it to be honest, we never hear back about the essay. I don't think it can be that important. I never really practiced the timing, if you're solid enough on the structure it won't take you longer than you have.