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How to survive Oxford freshers’ week

Eimer McAuley provides the fool-proof guide to making it through Oxford freshers week in one piece

From Keep Off the Grass.

So, after months of anticipation, freshers’ week has finally come around. Some of you will arrive loaded with paracetamol, fully prepared for a week that sees you bouncing from being absolutely hammered to hanging on a daily basis. Others may be daunted at the prospect of mass socialising and leaving home behind. No matter your expectations, aims, or anxieties about this week, this a fool-proof guide that will see you intact and fully functioning come 1st week.

First up, don’t get stressed about work

From the word go, this is where the Oxford experience begins to diverge from your average fresher’s week. Your tutors will call you to a meeting in the first few days and set you an essay due in a week. They will encourage you to hit the books from the off, cordon yourself in a section in the library, and come to terms with your new existence as a living essay machine. Whilst it’s a bad idea to leave that essay until the night before, there’s plenty of time for work during the year. This week is about having a blast of hedonism before that begins, so remember to relax and live a little.

Know your limits

Now that you’ve accepted that you’re going to have fun, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of what your body is physically capable of—there’s a big night out and then there’s puking into a plant pot in the Bridge smoking area and performing a weepy public monologue to Kevin from the floor above you about how you just missed out on an A* in History. Kevin, who is of course your new soulmate, because somewhere between the last jaeger and tripping down the stairs you realised that you just really like get each other. Drinkers, don’t go overboard! Take refuge in a stodgy Hassan’s to keep the killer hangover at bay, and take at least one night off for the sake of your liver.

Get to know Oxford

When you’re not spending your time drinking, you should probably get to know Oxford. Take a walk, see the sights, go on the Harry Potter tour if that’s your kind of gig. You’ll thank yourself for doing a little sight-seeing when, in 1st week, you have a lecture in a college whose name you aren’t sure how to pronounce, followed by a class in the faculty building you haven’t yet located. Oxford is beautiful and ancient, so soak some of the scenery up before you begin a very busy year.

Freshers’ Fair: the baptism of fire

Freshers’ Fair is a baptism of fire into the societies and clubs the Uni has to offer. Navigate your way around the impressively maze-like trail of stalls and sign up for whatever catches your eye. Whether you’re interested in singing, comedy, politics, or pastries, there will be something there for you. The students behind the desks will be grappling for your attention and the atmosphere is somewhat like a noisy market, but it’s a great way to see what’s available. Oh, and there’s free pizza.


In the sheer hedonism of it all, you might find that—five days in—you’ve spent way more money than you meant to, and you’re already behind budget. Fresher’s week is a good time to learn how to economise. Eat in hall, buy a kettle and a clothes horse, and most essentially, discover boxed wine. This brings me to another key tip, remember to call your parents. Those people who dropped you off with teary eyes? It’s really awkward when your first call is due to the fact that you’ve ran out of money, trust me

It’s only the first week

Lastly, don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’ve found your best friends for life in the first few days. Freshers’ Week is really a time for first impressions and bonding experiences, but you’ll end up having great friends who you didn’t even meet in freshers’ week. Go to some of the meet and greet events organised by your freshers’ committee if you’re nervous about introductions, and remember that you’ve got a year to get to know people. This week is only the beginning of your experience here, it won’t define it. You’re in for three amazing years that will be as unpredictable as they will be rewarding, and no one could pack that into one week.

This piece is from Cherwell‘s guide to Oxford Freshers’ Week 2017, Keep Off the Grass. Pick up your copy from your freshers rep or pidge room at the start of term.

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