To be honest, I don’t know if I belong here.
Starting a new year of college is always overwhelming, and this semester has been very out of the ordinary for me—what with being in a foreign country and all—so I guess being really stressed out isn’t unexpected. Trying to figure out my shipping address, dorm etiquette, a post-midnight fire alarm, and decorating when I know everything must go in two months have all been taxing, to say the least.
Despite all of these beginning-of-the-year issues, I’ve had so much fun. Sure, I’m older than the freshers I attend orientation events with (and the second-years that lead them), but there has been no shortage of things to do. Everywhere I go I meet another visiting student and have to ask them again what their name and subject is, and nobody cares if you forget. I’ve been going to costume party socials, out to a club with girls I had just met, wandering the streets of Oxford with students from Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, and so many other places in the world. I get to have lectures in amazingly beautiful buildings and try all sorts of sports and societies. As I hurry past the Radcliffe Camera on the way to a lecture, I see all of the tourists taking pictures and I feel a swell of pride that I, for the moment anyway, am an Oxford Student.
However, I kind of forgot about the academics.
I will be the first to admit I am not the best student. I study and take pride in my work, sure, but academics are not always my priority in life. Despite my tendency to procrastinate, I do work to turn out good academic assignments. I thought Oxford would be hard, but that I could do it. Additionally, I took an IES Abroad course in which I wrote three 2000+ word essays in three weeks, while managing to find time to have fun in London. It was hard but I could do it. I thought I was aware of how much work I was signing up for. I’d been telling everyone how bad my impostor syndrome was, but that I was ready to face whatever Oxford threw at me.
I am not going to sugarcoat it. My first tutorial was kind of devastating. My tutor asked all sorts of questions I just did not have the answers for. They were very sweet and willing to work assignments around my unconventional education, but that sting of not measuring up to expectations was still very painful. The first assignment they gave me was a nearly-900 pages book that I have to read by next week, and I am struggling big-time to read 100+ pages a day while still retaining all of the information. Not to mention I have to write an essay for my secondary tutorial which I haven’t found the time to even start researching yet. Academics here are no joke.
Truthfully, I feel like it’s not a syndrome anymore. I feel I am just an impostor.
It’s hard for me not to equate my academic struggle to a character flaw, a moral failing that I just can’t overcome. Everyone struggles in school, I know that. But I shouldn’t. I give my friends grace and help and support when they aren’t doing well academically, but I can’t do that for myself. I have to be perfect always.
In writing this, I am realising how silly all of this sounds. It’s only my first assignment, my first tutorial, my first week. Looking back on my first IES Abroad assignment, I thought it was impossible. But I did okay, and I got better. I can do that here too. Here is my advice—I think it’s important to give yourself time to be overwhelmed by all the work you have to do. But also, there is room to grow and improve over the term. It’s okay not to do perfect the first time, no matter how awful that can feel if you’re a student who loves academics. I’m at Oxford because I wanted to challenge myself in a lot of ways, and those challenges are hard. But they’re not impossible.
Also, there’s only eight weeks in the term. It’s intense work, but if I don’t appreciate it, it will be over before I know it.
More Blogs From This Author
I’m a third year student at the University of Redlands, pursuing an alternative education through the Johnston Centre of Integrative Studies, and I am studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. This essentially means that I design my own major, and instead of grades, I get written evaluations. I study History, Film, Literature, and Art. I’m deeply involved in the community, which means I love going to meetings and deciding policy! I love to sew costumes and clothes and to watch old movies with friends.