On waking up (at noon) on Thursday morning, I found I had a text from one of my fellow History freshers. Sent at 6am and accompanied by a screenshot of a half-finished essay: ‘WHY am I still up?!’
The all-nighter is a notorious Oxford experience, and not one I thought I would ever have to sample. ‘I’ll be fine getting the work done at university,’ I blithely assured those warning me of how unstructured a History student’s life is, ‘I like to keep busy.’
What I failed to appreciate is that it’s impossible not to be busy at university. School without lessons was dire — by Tuesday afternoon of the pre-Christmas week of ‘fun’ I had lost the will to live, let alone make Chemistry-themed paper-chains. But you could spend three sleep-deprived years at Oxford without doing a degree at all.
Despite my good intentions, I seem to be giving this approach a shot. Before I know it, it’s 2.30am and I’m in the library, washing ProPlus down with RedBull. How, I ask myself, is this happening for the third time in a fortnight? Once this essay is done, I’m going to reform. I will get up at 6.45am every other morning and jog. I will eat a balanced diet, consisting of more than Oreos and Weetabix. I will drink a maximum of two coffees a day. I will treat my degree like a nine-to-five job and I will join some CV- and fitness-improving societies.
Post-essay, I have a much-needed day of sleep followed by a celebratory night out. I get up at lunchtime, tidy away the carnage from the latest essay crisis, go to Sainbury’s, then to dinner, then to a debate at the Union, then to the pub. I got the essay done, the tutorial went well and life is good. But time flies. At some point, I’ll begin a story with ‘Guess what happened in the library yesterday?’ and realise that the incident in question took place three days ago. I now have 48 hours to read enough to be able to pretend to be an expert in early medieval kingship. Filled with self-loathing, I replenish my ProPlus stocks.
I’d love to be able to justify these habits by saying that I’ve decided to ‘make the most of my time at university’. Some people here make a conscious choice to let their degree take a back seat to editing the student paper, establishing their thespian credentials, running for Union office or thrashing Cambridge on the sports field. Some superhumans manage all four, and still get a solid 2:1.
People say that you can leave Oxford with a First, a sporting Blue or a spouse. At this rate, all I’ll be leaving with is a Guinness World Records-worthy pile of empty Oreo packets.