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The Oxford Mentality?

first_imgAre we all slaves to the Oxford mindset? And is it really all that bad, Sam Harding asks.Last week, in a spare hour between a lecture finishing and my tutorial starting, with the essay safely completed and printed, I spent a happy hour in the Grand Café. The scrambled eggs and smoked salmon bagel was the perfect brunch. But upon leaving, I felt a tingling sense of guilt that I’d wasted away an hour that could, and maybe should, have been far more productive and perhaps ‘academic’. I know I’m not the only one to have these self-induced guilt trips. Many students feel an onrush of shame for every hour wasted over coffee, Facebook, long lunches and pub excursions. We have it drilled into us that every minute can, and must, be spent applying oneself to study. My friend from Bristol, who kindly called on Sunday night to bask in the glory of having spent nearly all weekend in bed, albeit with the company of her laptop and the OC rather than the dashing History student she is currently pursuing, did not, when I asked her, feel any guilt whatsoever. She had an essay due in on Tuesday, but it could easily wait until the end of the week. And the term’s reading list was, she admitted, a little too long for her liking (four books), but she could probably read over the holidays. But more than just the artificiality of deadlines and long-winded essay titles, with even longer reading lists, all crammed into one week, is the inherent psychology of the place. It’s hard for anyone to specify, but there is a general sense of work, work, work, and shame on you if you don’t. Having said this, two of my closest friends seemed to have struck a clever, albeit physically demanding balance last term. Throughout the day, they are chained to their desks, ploughing through their work with relentless focus. But when the Tom clock struck seven, the switch was flicked, and an all-night marathon began of drink, drink, drink. Their enthusiasm echoed through the Meadows buildings until the early hours, as they tottered to their rooms. Admittedly, this term they have drawn up strict exercise regimes to balance out the damage inflicted by Messrs. Gordon’s, Smirnoff, and Sauvignon.Indeed, there is a culture of work hard, play hard(er) that runs through the university. And perhaps it is effective, preparing us for after graduation, when many will pour into the 14-hour days of Med School, investment banking, journalism, politics, and law. Employers favour Oxford graduates for more than the reputation. Without tooting our own horns, we are accustomed to working ridiculously hard for prolonged amounts of time, and still finding time to socialise our cotton socks off. Yes, there’s the 5th week blues, but no-one even considers taking a week off, or slacking the pace. We plough on through, not just because we have to, but because we’ve worked out how to.  Perhaps we should all take a bow, and bask in our super-stamina. But don’t worry, narcissists, I’ve no doubt next week’s tutorial will bring us all back to reality.last_img

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