OxFossil
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Mental and emotional health is a big deal for freshers at any university. But being at Oxford is a bit different. I wondered if it might be helpful for current and past students to pass on tips that will help freshers avoid the Heffalump traps of Oxford - or to climb out of them if they happen to fall in?

For me, here are the biggest dangers:

1. For many of you, getting into Oxford is the culmination of a dream - and not just for you. Friends, family, school - all see your getting a place here as some sort of personal accomplishment. You might even have had a piece advertising your achievement in the local paper. So if you aren't having a completely brilliant time and winning scholarships galore, you are letting down yourself, your family, your town and your nation. What a responsibility!

2. You are probably used to being "the cleverest girl/boy in the school", the Head Girl/Boy, the one who always gets top marks. Suddenly, you are surrounded by Head Girls and Boys. You find yourself in tutorials where it becomes clear that you have not done as much work as anyone else. Worse, you have missed the elementary point that everyone else grasped with ease. Not only that, but you seemed to be the only one who didn't turn white when you were told how much the field trip was going to cost. You are about to be "found out".

3. There is no central Student's Union venue. Your college JCR is so small and everyone seems to know each other already. How will you ever "bump into" that cute person with the Doctor Who scarf and the sparkly spectacles you saw in the Covered Market this morning?

So - any thoughts, people?
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auburnstar
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(Original post by OxFossil)
How will you ever "bump into" that cute person with the Doctor Who scarf and the sparkly spectacles you saw in the Covered Market this morning?
That sounds too specific to be a general example xDD

On a serious note, would be good to know how gap year people coped with workload adjustment after a year+ break from school.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by OxFossil)
Mental and emotional health is a big deal for freshers at any university. But being at Oxford is a bit different. I wondered if it might be helpful for current and past students to pass on tips that will help freshers avoid the Heffalump traps of Oxford - or to climb out of them if they happen to fall in?

For me, here are the biggest dangers:

1. For many of you, getting into Oxford is the culmination of a dream - and not just for you. Friends, family, school - all see your getting a place here as some sort of personal accomplishment. You might even have had a piece advertising your achievement in the local paper. So if you aren't having a completely brilliant time and winning scholarships galore, you are letting down yourself, your family, your town and your nation. What a responsibility!

2. You are probably used to being "the cleverest girl/boy in the school", the Head Girl/Boy, the one who always gets top marks. Suddenly, you are surrounded by Head Girls and Boys. You find yourself in tutorials where it becomes clear that you have not done as much work as anyone else. Worse, you have missed the elementary point that everyone else grasped with ease. Not only that, but you seemed to be the only one who didn't turn white when you were told how much the field trip was going to cost. You are about to be "found out".

3. There is no central Student's Union venue. Your college JCR is so small and everyone seems to know each other already. How will you ever "bump into" that cute person with the Doctor Who scarf and the sparkly spectacles you saw in the Covered Market this morning?

So - any thoughts, people?
PRSOM. Poke me to add my thoughts later. I'll try not to be too brutal :ninja:
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OxFossil
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(Original post by auburnstar)
That sounds too specific to be a general example xDD

On a serious note, would be good to know how gap year people coped with workload adjustment after a year+ break from school.
Yeah, I'd just like to say that it's not too late, scarf-and-glasses-person, if you are out there....

Workwise, even without a gap year, I would only say that I fell into the obvious trap of looking at the hours of non-contact time and thinking, "Great - I can get really good at pinball now". I did get good at pinball too. And also very good at thinking up excuses for why I wasn't able to hand in my prac write ups that week. Or ever.

Timetable from day 1. That's the thing. Do a timetable, probably one that includes pinball and prac write-ups.
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Poooky
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It's okay to be overwhelmed in the first few weeks, or heck even term! It's okay to struggle with the workload at first, and there's no shame in asking tutors for help Most people are struggling, even if they don't show it. It usually gets better by the second term, but if not have a chat with your tutors to see what they can do to help. And remember, if you really really dislike it, there's no shame in leaving Oxford. In hindsight, I should have done so

(Original post by OxFossil)

3. There is no central Student's Union venue. Your college JCR is so small and everyone seems to know each other already. How will you ever "bump into" that cute person with the Doctor Who scarf and the sparkly spectacles you saw in the Covered Market this morning?

So - any thoughts, people?
Oxlove exists these days
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OxFossil
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(Original post by Poooky)
It's okay to be overwhelmed in the first few weeks, or heck even term! It's okay to struggle with the workload at first, and there's no shame in asking tutors for help Most people are struggling, even if they don't show it. It usually gets better by the second term, but if not have a chat with your tutors to see what they can do to help. And remember, if you really really dislike it, there's no shame in leaving Oxford. In hindsight, I should have done so



Oxlove exists these days
Yes, it's really important for people to know that they are not alone in feeling that they are "not coping". I reckon that pretty much everyone feels this at some point or another.

Knowing this might help with the Imposter Syndrome thing too. I also recommend that people stride assertively round every bit of their college, chat to the porters, go into the Rad Cam (even if it isn't "your" library), and generally do what they need to to feel like this place is home and that they belong here. At Ch Ch, the Dean invited freshers to walk his dog every day in Michaelmas - when the Dean is greeting you by name within a few weeks of starting, it does help people to feel at home.

Some things that helped me manage the stress of the Oxford pressure cooker involved escaping it:
- being involved in volunteer group with people with learning disabilities helped me get some perspective
- living in a house shared with nursing students expanded my social life
- going to "town" political groups rather than the Uni ones was a relief too
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auburnstar
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(Original post by OxFossil)
Yes, it's really important for people to know that they are not alone in feeling that they are "not coping". I reckon that pretty much everyone feels this at some point or another.

Knowing this might help with the Imposter Syndrome thing too. I also recommend that people stride assertively round every bit of their college, chat to the porters, go into the Rad Cam (even if it isn't "your" library), and generally do what they need to to feel like this place is home and that they belong here. At Ch Ch, the Dean invited freshers to walk his dog every day in Michaelmas - when the Dean is greeting you by name within a few weeks of starting, it does help people to feel at home.

Some things that helped me manage the stress of the Oxford pressure cooker involved escaping it:
- being involved in volunteer group with people with learning disabilities helped me get some perspective
- living in a house shared with nursing students expanded my social life
- going to "town" political groups rather than the Uni ones was a relief too
Simon Clark mentioned he used to go to the Arboretum. I'm guessing immersing yourself in nature would be good stress relief (for any uni)
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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OK, so this could be a long post but I figure it might help to outline some (not all - some I would hope were very specific to my situation and would never happen to any of you!) of the issues I faced during my three years at Oxford, and what I think helped (or in retrospect, would have helped) :holmes:


THINGS THAT MIGHT HAPPEN/THAT COULD GO WRONG


Developing an inferiority complex/feeling "unworthy" of being at Oxford

This has been touched upon a bit above, with talk of imposter syndrome and the feeling that you might be behind your tutorial partners. I think anyone who isn't a complete douchebag/narcissist does question at least once whether they ought to be at Oxford, during the course of their degree. It's a huge step up and it's very natural to feel behind and like you are failing, especially in the first term/the first year. The fact that it is natural to feel that way, though, doesn't make it pleasant or right that you should feel that way!

You may feel this way for a number of reasons. It may be that you are feeling uncertain and insecure and are therefore beating yourself up a lot, or reading too much into things. It may be that others - tutors or peers - either deliberately or inadvertently make you feel small through what they say and do, and how they act around you.


Bullying/discrimination

I would hope this wouldn't happen to anyone but it can/does happen to some people... As with any uni, there are a small number of jerks at Oxford who may target you through bullying and/or discrimination. This may be due to your accent, your school background or where you live, your race/ethnicity, the way you dress - it could be anything.

It's important to know that if you are being targeted in this way, it says far more about the bully than it does you.


Struggling to fit in/make new friends

Some people come to Oxford knowing other people already from school or extra-curriculars; others may not though, and may find it hard to settle in and make friends. It may be that you are shy, or perhaps you don't drink (not that either reason should make you feel excluded at all!). Perhaps you have anxiety about talking to new people.

It's important to remember that friendships change over time and that the people you click with in Freshers' Week won't necessarily be your friends for life. It's OK to spread your wings and to try and get to know as many new people as you can.


Pre-existing mental health conditions worsening

I personally wouldn't advise attending Oxbridge if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, but if you DO, you must be aware that it could worsen due to the intense nature of the studies and your new environment.


WHAT COULD HELP


Talking about how you are feeling early on

This cannot be overstated enough. If anything at Oxford is making you unhappy - regardless of what that is - it is important that you speak out at the earliest opportunity. (I rarely did this and it's something I bitterly regret, as it affected my overall degree classification.) There is loads of pastoral support at both uni and college level, in addition to your own friends and family. So tap into it! If you don't get on with one welfare person, try another - there's bound to be someone you can confide in who will try to help. Don't bottle things up: it may cost you a lot (your degree classification, your sanity or - at very worst - your life).

It's really important to report any untoward behaviour from others (be it bullying/discrimination/harassment) to your college. It will be swiftly dealt with. You deserve not to suffer.



Do things for yourself that are not related to your studies

I feel this is really important and was key to my getting through Oxford vaguely intact! Whilst studies are important and need to be done, it's important to do relaxation things, and/or things you enjoy too. So get involved in extra-curriculars or uni/college societies (NB. this is also a great way to meet new people and to make like-minded friends). There are so many things to do in Oxford and you will regret not making the most of the opportunity if you are not proactive about engaging in things during your degree.

Remember it's OK and indeed important to take breaks. Get some fresh air every day - go for a walk around your college or pop down to the shops or the University Park.

Something that myself and my tutorial partners instititued in 2nd year was 'The Daily Doss'. Every day, for at least an hour, the three of us would convene in someone's room and sit and drink tea, so that we were socialising and dedicating some sacred time to not doing any work. It was really healthy for all of us and helped us get through our degrees. It also built a strong sense of cameraderie Why not do something similar yourself?



Remember you are amazing

You are important, you are wonderful. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to be at Oxford if you were offered a place. That said, don't do things that make you ill or miserable. As has been said, there's absolutely no shame in leaving Oxford at all if it needs to be done to preserve your wellbeing.


Register for all the support you are eligible for

If you are mentally ill and you really do want to give Oxford a go, then by all means do - but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE declare your conditions to the university and to your college at the earliest outset. Apply for DSA and the minute things start going downhill for you, confide in someone who can help. Don't suffer in silence - you may live to regret it (if you do live to tell the tale).



I think these are my main thoughts for now - may add to things later
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OxFossil
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
OK, so this could be a long post but I figure it might help to outline some (not all - some I would hope were very specific to my situation and would never happen to any of you!) of the issues I faced during my three years at Oxford, and what I think helped (or in retrospect, would have helped) :holmes:


THINGS THAT MIGHT HAPPEN/THAT COULD GO WRONG


Developing an inferiority complex/feeling "unworthy" of being at Oxford

This has been touched upon a bit above, with talk of imposter syndrome and the feeling that you might be behind your tutorial partners. I think anyone who isn't a complete douchebag/narcissist does question at least once whether they ought to be at Oxford, during the course of their degree. It's a huge step up and it's very natural to feel behind and like you are failing, especially in the first term/the first year. The fact that it is natural to feel that way, though, doesn't make it pleasant or right that you should feel that way!

You may feel this way for a number of reasons. It may be that you are feeling uncertain and insecure and are therefore beating yourself up a lot, or reading too much into things. It may be that others - tutors or peers - either deliberately or inadvertently make you feel small through what they say and do, and how they act around you.


Bullying/discrimination

I would hope this wouldn't happen to anyone but it can/does happen to some people... As with any uni, there are a small number of jerks at Oxford who may target you through bullying and/or discrimination. This may be due to your accent, your school background or where you live, your race/ethnicity, the way you dress - it could be anything.

It's important to know that if you are being targeted in this way, it says far more about the bully than it does you.


Struggling to fit in/make new friends

Some people come to Oxford knowing other people already from school or extra-curriculars; others may not though, and may find it hard to settle in and make friends. It may be that you are shy, or perhaps you don't drink (not that either reason should make you feel excluded at all!). Perhaps you have anxiety about talking to new people.

It's important to remember that friendships change over time and that the people you click with in Freshers' Week won't necessarily be your friends for life. It's OK to spread your wings and to try and get to know as many new people as you can.


Pre-existing mental health conditions worsening

I personally wouldn't advise attending Oxbridge if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, but if you DO, you must be aware that it could worsen due to the intense nature of the studies and your new environment.


WHAT COULD HELP


Talking about how you are feeling early on

This cannot be overstated enough. If anything at Oxford is making you unhappy - regardless of what that is - it is important that you speak out at the earliest opportunity. (I rarely did this and it's something I bitterly regret, as it affected my overall degree classification.) There is loads of pastoral support at both uni and college level, in addition to your own friends and family. So tap into it! If you don't get on with one welfare person, try another - there's bound to be someone you can confide in who will try to help. Don't bottle things up: it may cost you a lot (your degree classification, your sanity or - at very worst - your life).

It's really important to report any untoward behaviour from others (be it bullying/discrimination/harassment) to your college. It will be swiftly dealt with. You deserve not to suffer.



Do things for yourself that are not related to your studies

I feel this is really important and was key to my getting through Oxford vaguely intact! Whilst studies are important and need to be done, it's important to do relaxation things, and/or things you enjoy too. So get involved in extra-curriculars or uni/college societies (NB. this is also a great way to meet new people and to make like-minded friends). There are so many things to do in Oxford and you will regret not making the most of the opportunity if you are not proactive about engaging in things during your degree.

Remember it's OK and indeed important to take breaks. Get some fresh air every day - go for a walk around your college or pop down to the shops or the University Park.

Something that myself and my tutorial partners instititued in 2nd year was 'The Daily Doss'. Every day, for at least an hour, the three of us would convene in someone's room and sit and drink tea, so that we were socialising and dedicating some sacred time to not doing any work. It was really healthy for all of us and helped us get through our degrees. It also built a strong sense of cameraderie Why not do something similar yourself?



Remember you are amazing

You are important, you are wonderful. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to be at Oxford if you were offered a place. That said, don't do things that make you ill or miserable. As has been said, there's absolutely no shame in leaving Oxford at all if it needs to be done to preserve your wellbeing.


Register for all the support you are eligible for

If you are mentally ill and you really do want to give Oxford a go, then by all means do - but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE declare your conditions to the university and to your college at the earliest outset. Apply for DSA and the minute things start going downhill for you, confide in someone who can help. Don't suffer in silence - you may live to regret it (if you do live to tell the tale).



I think these are my main thoughts for now - may add to things later
Them's wise words indeed, TLG. It's like the third law of motion innit - to each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The colleges at Oxbridge are right to make much of the special atmosphere and conditions for learning that they provide - through tutorials, close-knit college communities and so on. But equally, they should be upfront about the potential that same atmosphere can have for evil. I reckon a short guide to Imposter Syndrome, workload stress and what to do about them would add something valuable to the more generic mental/emotional health advice that gets given to freshers.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by OxFossil)
But equally, they should be upfront about the potential that same atmosphere can have for evil. I reckon a short guide to Imposter Syndrome, workload stress and what to do about them would add something valuable to the more generic mental/emotional health advice that gets given to freshers.
Totally agree with you :five:
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Fullofsurprises
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(Original post by OxFossil)
Them's wise words indeed, TLG. It's like the third law of motion innit - to each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The colleges at Oxbridge are right to make much of the special atmosphere and conditions for learning that they provide - through tutorials, close-knit college communities and so on. But equally, they should be upfront about the potential that same atmosphere can have for evil. I reckon a short guide to Imposter Syndrome, workload stress and what to do about them would add something valuable to the more generic mental/emotional health advice that gets given to freshers.
We had a pep talk at my college (Oriel) about stress management, but there wasn't much of the above - there does tend to be a 'grin and bear it' culture at Oxford, partly at least through a perceived peer pressure that may not be there in reality - you can't always tell that the person next to you is just as overwrought by work and college reality as you are!

I know from many friends (and my own experiences) that there's often a crash down after the first few weeks (sometimes it starts earlier for some people) when the initial excitement dissipates somewhat and grind sets in, together with what seems like (as you rightly say in your post) impossibly talented 'competition'. A big thing for me was realising (some time around the early days of my second year) that it wasn't worth treating it as a competition, that I would plough my furrow and just try not to worry too much about how glamorous/super-clever/amazingly-megatalented everyone else was.
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OxFossil
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(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
We had a pep talk at my college (Oriel) about stress management, but there wasn't much of the above - there does tend to be a 'grin and bear it' culture at Oxford, partly at least through a perceived peer pressure that may not be there in reality - you can't always tell that the person next to you is just as overwrought by work and college reality as you are!

I know from many friends (and my own experiences) that there's often a crash down after the first few weeks (sometimes it starts earlier for some people) when the initial excitement dissipates somewhat and grind sets in, together with what seems like (as you rightly say in your post) impossibly talented 'competition'. A big thing for me was realising (some time around the early days of my second year) that it wasn't worth treating it as a competition, that I would plough my furrow and just try not to worry too much about how glamorous/super-clever/amazingly-megatalented everyone else was.
That's a great point - it's isn't until the everyday reality starts to bite that people need help.

After a couple of years here on TSR, it breaks my heart to see people posting after their first couple of terms at Oxford saying that things have gone sour and they are thinking of dropping out.

I wonder how many colleges do ensure that every Fresher has a personal tutorial at some point later in that first year to discuss how things are working out for them? Mental Health Awareness Week in May would be the ideal opportunity, and surely better than hoping that people who are struggling will make the approach spontaneously - back in the day, I didn't dream of doing such a thing, but it would have been so helpful.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by OxFossil)
That's a great point - it's isn't until the everyday reality starts to bite that people need help.

After a couple of years here on TSR, it breaks my heart to see people posting after their first couple of terms at Oxford saying that things have gone sour and they are thinking of dropping out.

I wonder how many colleges do ensure that every Fresher has a personal tutorial at some point later in that first year to discuss how things are working out for them? Mental Health Awareness Week in May would be the ideal opportunity, and surely better than hoping that people who are struggling will make the approach spontaneously - back in the day, I didn't dream of doing such a thing, but it would have been so helpful.
It would be really good if colleges did that. I've never heard of any doing that sadly, though things may have changed since I left and I just am unaware.

My major problem was that my "personal tutor" to go to for welfare was also my college subject tutor. Whose bright idea that was is beyond me...
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Also, any idea who are the Support Team people for the Oxbridge section? I strongly feel they ought to pin/sticky this thread
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OxFossil
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)

My major problem was that my "personal tutor" to go to for welfare was also my college subject tutor. Whose bright idea that was is beyond me...
Mine too! Nightmare.
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wolfmoon88
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Also, any idea who are the Support Team people for the Oxbridge section? I strongly feel they ought to pin/sticky this thread
@Doonesbury can do this I think , can't tag him on phone though

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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Doonesbury : can you sticky this thread please?

(Original post by wolfmoon88)
@Doonesbury can do this I think , can't tag him on phone though

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Thanks :hugs:
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wolfmoon88
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Doonesbury : can you sticky this thread please?

Thanks :hugs:
:hugs:
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Doones
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Doonesbury : can you sticky this thread please?



Thanks :hugs:
(Original post by wolfmoon88)
@Doonesbury can do this I think , can't tag him on phone though

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It's an excellent thread

I'd rather we had fewer stickies than more though... let me have a think. E.g. a stickied master thread about Oxford with links to important, but not stickied, threads.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
It's an excellent thread

I'd rather we had fewer stickies than more though... let me have a think. E.g. a stickied master thread about Oxford with links to important, but not stickied, threads.
Sure, completely understand
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