At the start of each school year I often find myself telling the incoming freshmen “Ah, what I wouldn’t give to be a freshman again.” The truth is, I don’t mean it. I am perfectly happy to have my friends, know where all my classes are, and not be at the bottom of the totem pole. But I have come to appreciate as much flak as freshmen get for being clueless to the ways of the world (or at least within the microcosm of a college campus) there is also something to be said for the fleeting virginal pleasure of being immersed into so many new experiences all at once. Arriving at Oxford, I have certainly felt like a freshman again. And while I have been quickly reminded why I am so glad to no longer be a freshman, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also nice to do it all again. I have even found myself eating in the dining hall again (though when your dining hall is straight out of Harry Potter it has slightly more appeal than the buffet style cafeterias that defined freshman year).
Here all new students are called “Freshers” and they are grouped together based on the unifying characteristic that they are new to Oxford. Regardless of age, nationality, or area of study, we are all Fresher’s. The approach is quite a welcoming one, and while I have often felt inundated with orientations, safety briefings, and inductions, they are all admittedly quite useful. Knowing how everything worked at my home institution may have been old hat, but crucial information like library hours and best places for a late night snack have all had to be relearned. For this reason, it is exceedingly helpful to be treated like a freshman.
It also gives you a unique opportunity to reinvent yourself. Every year when New Year’s Day rolls around, people embrace the opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. Gym memberships soar, healthy eating abounds, and bad habits are kicked to the curb… for about a month. Occasionally New Year’s resolutions lead to lasting changes for a better lifestyle, but ultimately the same habits creep back in. The numbers may have changed on the calendar, but not much else has. If you are in the same environment with the same routine and same temptations, trying to make significant changes, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, will be supremely difficult to maintain. However, when you’re entire surroundings are new, no one knows you, and you haven’t even adjusted your sleep pattern (much less a daily routine) you have a golden opportunity to build your new lifestyle however you like. You have enough independence to sleep all day every day, or not sleep at all. It’s like freshman year all over, but hopefully this time with some added wisdom. We will have to see how long it lasts, but I have welcomed this opportunity with open arms. I am trying to force myself to eat healthy by only buying (somewhat) healthy groceries. I have joined the crew team, which practices at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning (serving the dual function of getting me out of bed to start my day and getting some exercise). And in class I have taken the initiative of being responsible about my work. I realize that I chose to come here, I am here to learn, to take advantage of the academic prowess of this esteemed institution. If I wanted to skate by and follow along, I should’ve stayed home. Surrounded by some of the most historic and beautiful architecture in England, walking in the footsteps of some of our world’s greatest minds, I would like to be the best version of myself that I can be. I aim to leave Oxford having made my time here worthwhile, taken advantage of every opportunity available. After all the planning, hoping, working, packing, travelling, stressing, wondering, and everything else, I am finally here. I didn’t just come to visit, to pass through. I came to grow, and I intend to do so.