For a long time, I’ve looked back and thought I had done a pretty bad job of being a ‘Fresher’. I believed Freshers was something you could make a success of, as something I had failed at.

I remembered those first few weeks spent not making spontaneous decisions or unlikely friendships. I remembered myself wasting opportunities: I had rushed through the freshers fair, suddenly too shy, too easily overwhelmed; I had signed up to the wrong societies and I had stayed in my room, afraid to give new people and experiences a chance.

My memory, though, can be an unforgiving thing and recently, I’ve been mulling over those first few weeks at Oxford again. Now, I’d like to think that my freshers was not a sum of wrong or right decisions. It was what I made of trying my best in a university that is not only just a little strange but that for hundreds of years hasn’t really accommodated people of my gender, class or race. At the risk of offering advice that has the whiff of a platitude about it, if you’re a fresher this year, I’d really recommend being generous and patient with yourself. I wish I had.

Breeha Mazhar, Third Year, LMH
Source: Sarina Chandaria

In all honesty, as I was approaching Oxford’s spires in the car with my parents, the main feeling I had was that of nervousness and dread: what was I doing here? I felt like a complete imposter in the face of all of Oxford’s history and majesty, encompassed by the city’s intimidating. Despite this, I soon found that as soon as I spoke to other freshers and students that my fear was unfounded. Within that week, I ended up meeting a huge range of diverse people that both conformed to and deconstructed the Oxford stereotype; some of which are now my closest friends. It ended up being a great week of exploring my new and daunting environment whilst becoming instantly close with people I had only known a few days!

Maya Berglin, Second Year, St Catz
Source: Sarina Chandaria

During both of my Freshers’ Weeks (for my BA in 2014 and for my DPhil in 2018), I had good reason to be nervous. I went to Univ for my BA, and I was the only student from my school who went to Oxford and was also studying a degree that no one else in my college was. In fact, only one other student in the university was a first-year on my course. I’m now at St Cross for my DPhil, and during Freshers’ Week I didn’t want to leave my room because I’d been bullied during the latter half of my BA.

Both at Univ and at St Cross I made sure that I went to as many activities and met as many people as possible. I enjoyed the activities that I went to and I met some lovely people, so if you find yourself in one or both of the situations that I did, then go out and join in. You’ll feel much better for doing that than for hiding, even though that’s the easier option.  

Chloé Agar, DPhil, St Cross
Source: Sarina Chandaria

I can’t say I remember much of freshers’ week. Not to say that I went on a week-long bender; it was more that three library inductions and a visit to the ice rink can only make so much of an impression.

Osian Williams, Second Year, Trinity
Source: Sarina Chandaria

Freshers’ week gave me a chance to dive into a new chapter with loads of other people in the same boat. I met people who come from across the globe, some of whom I now consider my closest friends. My personal highlight was one night where a few of us decided to go to a pub together – it was then I started to realise that this was not just some dreamt up fantasy…

Jaymin Shah, Third Year, Christ Church
Source: Sarina Chandaria

I was apprehensive about ‘freshers’ at first, especially since I was a year older than the other first years and had witnessed my friends’ very mixed experiences the year before. On the first night I spilt vodka down my favourite trousers and fell over in Fever. Luckily, I also met some of my favourite people who didn’t immediately disown me, and ended up having one of the most fun weeks!

Ellie Thompson, Second Year, Christ Church

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