My town and my gown: “the world has slowed down around me”

Josh Travers resigns himself to the monotony of a Vac spent in Stockport

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Photo: Adam Bruderer https://www.flickr.com/photos/adambruderer/4735992699

I’m bored. Extremely bored. This is not a feeling that I have had to grapple with much during my life at university so far. The plunge deep into the whirlpool of essays from first week to eighth, punctuated by frequent nights out, and with the potential for everyday social interaction with friends and neighbours constantly bubbling beneath the surface, I have at times experienced feelings of stress, fatigue and even despair — but never boredom.

In the high-intensity life of an Oxford student, there is no time for the feeling that now washes over me, as inevitably as the rising of the sun on my first morning back home, that there is nothing for me to do here. Do I have an essay to finish off today? No, I actually survived another term’s workload. Could I make a start on my next reading list? Afraid not, and anyway I’m now hundreds of miles away from the Bod. Well, surely I must have a lecture to get up for? Wrong again, what little structure my life as a historian usually has is on hiatus for the next few weeks. Perhaps I could start early on revising for collections? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves now.

Of course, nobody in their right mind would really want the Oxford workload to continue into the Vac, but I must admit that after hurtling through the last eight weeks at a thousand miles an hour, slamming on the brakes so suddenly has left me feeling rather strange. Sure enough, the world has slowed down around me, but I find myself struggling to adapt to the change of pace. Somehow I awake from a long overdue night’s sleep with more lethargy than I ever experienced getting up for a Friday morning tute after the inevitable Thursday night at Bridge.

Far worse than the absence of work, though, is the absence of play. Now, instead of being a few minutes, or even seconds, away from my friends in college, we are now separated by up to hundreds, or even thousands, of miles. On top of this, it is now that I remember part of the reason why Oxford’s terms seems so intense: they are actually relatively short. Of all my friends from home, the vast majority will not return for another two or three weeks, and I can hardly spend my student loan on a national tour to visit them all in the meantime.

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For me, I should mention, home is the town of Stockport, which might as well be Manchester for anyone who lives outside the northwest of England (despite the reservations of real Mancunians, it is easier to say ‘Manchester’ rather than explain the location of somewhere people have never heard of, sorry). For someone who has lived here all my life, Stockport doesn’t really have a great deal to offer, and recently my main social activity has involved a Wetherspoon’s, and a night out in Manchester city centre. As great it is (no local bias here), Manchester nightlife is not an activity best undertaken solo, so after weeks of Park End and PT, I suddenly have to go cold turkey until enough of my friends get back from university for the makings of a decent night out.

So in the meantime I remain stuck in a kind of limbo, knowing I should be glad of a rest, but confused as to why I’m not. I suppose I should use the opportunity to save up for impending taxi rides home (Stockport doesn’t seem like ‘basically Manchester’ when you’re facing a £20 fare), but enviously flicking through Snapchat stories of friends enjoying St Patrick’s Day at their respective universities– the novelty of watching telly and talking to my family having long since worn off—I realise that I’m not looking forward to the nights out at home as much as I am looking back on the ones in Oxford. That’s what I want to get back to, that’s where I want to get back to. Everything else just seems second best now. Even when my friends are back home, none of them are living just down the hall.

I love the exhausting, intoxicating, maddening intensity of my life in Oxford. Without it, I feel isolated, clinging desperately to the Oxford meme community to maintain a sense of attachment to my home away from home. At least the endless stream of Oxlove posts can help me avoid revision.