Those Dreaming Spires – Five Things That Oxford University Taught Me

In the summer of 2016 I graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University. My graduation was euphoric; I joined my friends and family to celebrate four years of hard work and determination.

With the awareness of my time at Oxford University coming to an end I reflected on my undergraduate years. I started thinking about what I had learnt from my time in the city of dreaming spires. I came to the conclusion that Oxford taught me five invaluable life lessons:


The skies are the limit

When I started studying at Oxford I was very aware of the trials and tribulations that I faced to get there: personal statement perfecting, admissions tests and nerve-racking interviews. But what I was also aware of was how I overcame these obstacles and was now introduced to a range of exciting opportunities. Whether it was taking part in different societies, working abroad, attending career-networking events or interacting with world-leading researchers, I saw every day at Oxford as a privilege to have access to a wealth of resources. My time at university offered a small glimpse of what was possible to explore in the future.

Time management is key

Having had to balance lectures, reading, essay writing as well as a social life, I quickly had to adapt myself to get the best out of my time at university. Initially it was a big shock to the system to have to juggle many balls but I quickly realised that managing time was the key to success. I bought myself a diary planner, kept a to-do list and prioritised different tasks accordingly. Included in this was time for having an important and enjoyable social life. A good work-life balance is central to achieving happiness and good health. It can seem quite easy to throw yourself into work 24/7, but by scheduling in breaks, stress and procrastination levels lower significantly and productivity levels skyrocket.

Comparing ourselves is futile

We all know that a little bit of competition is normal. However, at times a university environment can make you feel slightly ‘stupid’ or inferior to your fellow course mates. It’s natural to want to match or surpass them by writing the best essays or getting the best grades but this isn’t healthy. Comparing yourself constantly to the next person is to do yourself a disservice. Having had tutorials on my own I recognised that life wasn’t about doing better than the next person; it was about doing better for me. My time at university was about becoming the most accomplished person that I could be and this was a journey that only I could take. When I stopped caring about how far behind or ahead I was compared others I was able to see the bigger picture. I felt much happier in my work and social life.

Hard work and determination take you far

Sometimes it can seem like you’re putting in a lot of hard work and you’re not seeing positive results. At times I found that I would put so much time into revision and my final grade didn’t reflect this work. It was initially very hard to comprehend and I sunk into a feeling of utter failure. It took a couple of university professors to teach me that disappointment did not mean that I was a failure. The setbacks and mistakes that I made were a really important learning curve. But more than that, I became aware of the importance of never giving up. My ability to finally get through my final exams and achieve a good degree showed me that my determination to face my worries lead to buckets of success. I believed in myself and knew that there was no reason why I couldn’t achieve similar success in my professional life. 

Mental health is important

In the eye of the storm the going can get tough: tight deadlines, rising stress levels, exams. Asides from organising myself well, I often took some time out for myself and to make sure that I was mentally fit to deal with these tasks. If you’re well the chances are that you’ll do better in your professional life too. Whenever I felt down or a little stressed I turned to a confidant- a friend or family member, for example- to share my troubles with. For some, times can be much harder and a daily struggle. That’s why it’s always important to remind yourself of the resources available to you, including helplines and counselling services, in order to find ways to tackle issues and to feel happier in your social and professional life.


Want to study at Oxford? Here is a surprisingly simple tip how to get into Oxford University.



Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo
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