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Let’s talk about loneliness over the vac

Size isn't everything when it comes to termly breaks

I remember how smug I felt telling my friends from home ‘yeah? Well I’ve got a full SIX weeks off at Easter!’ Compared to my friends at Scottish unis, who have a measly two week break, it seemed fantastic. At last, no more having to keep my milk fresh by leaving it out on the windowsill! But now, less than a week into the vac, and with three weeks until my friends from home come back from their respective universities, the break is not quite what I anticipated.

The relief when term ends is great. Oxford is after all stressful and hectic whatever subject you study. This means at first it can be lovely to come home to a sense of familiarity and maybe, if you’re lucky enough, not to have to worry about feeding yourself for a bit. Within a few days however, spending your nights watching Coronation Street with your soap-obsessed parents, while tapping through Snapchat stories of your mates still living it up in Nottingham or Manchester, it can start to feel like a drag.

I can be sat there messaging my friends from Oxford, but it just isn’t the same. A group chat just doesn’t have the same dynamic as a cup of tea in someone’s room. I miss these intimate gatherings, especially when they always seemed to morph into a full scale rave, accompanied with strobe lights and noise complaints, as more and more friends pop in and out, each with a new anecdote or annoyance to share. I can’t help but wonder how much of their lives I’m missing.

I also miss the little things that had the potential to spark a brilliant conversation, or at least make for a great story over brunch the next morning. For instance, a few days ago, some vaguely dramatic screenshots came my way. If this had happened in college, friends would be congregating in my room and the kettle would be on. Within a few hours, we would be knee deep in Facebook mutual friends and reconstructing this person’s family tree via Instagram. But over messenger, a few ‘omgs!!!’ has nowhere near the same thrill.

Something else to remember is that university is also an escape for many of us. Sometimes we will find friends here that, for many reasons, we gel better with than anyone from home. After all, we are surrounded by such inspirational and incredible people at Oxford. For many of us, it may be the first time in our lives we’ve felt settled as individuals. To be away from those who understand you best for six weeks at a time can be understandably frustrating.

A lot of us may also not have a happy home to go back to also. The idea that the vac is a chance to return to the warm embrace of a loving family is simply not the case for many of us. It can be an especially miserable time if you are unable to express yourself, and be who you want to be, or if you are returning to an unhappy or abusive household. We can often forget how much of an open-minded, liberal haven Oxford can be.

I may be a fresher, but I feel I can offer some guidance:

If you have work to do, get as much done as possible before your friends come home. Don’t spend hours sitting at your desk, but do your best to be productive.

In my limited experience, an impassioned ‘omg we have to meet up this vac!’ shouted over your shoulder as you pack your last box into the car, isn’t a solid plan. Decide a date, a place, and a group, if you really want to make it happen! Even if it’s just a day, it’s a chance to see your uni friends in a different context outside of Oxford.

Eat healthily and exercise – think of all the Solomons it will allow you to have when you get back. Have a point in your day where you set aside time for self-improvement. You can even plug in your earphones and shamelessly listen to some 90s pop as you do so.

Whilst we’d probably all go mad if we had much longer in Oxford, sometimes the terms can seem unfairly short. It certainly didn’t occur to me how much I’d miss it all in the great expanses of vac. If you’re feeling like this, take some comfort in the fact you’re not alone.

Make the most of the vac, and don’t let it pass you by. Take the rest you deserve. Most importantly, remember that taking the effort to travel to Scotland, to see someone from Oxford, only shows how strong your friendship truly is.

Five weeks left – embrace the chance to rejuvenate, rest, eat well, be the person you want to be, have fun, and most importantly, don’t work too hard.

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