The internal conflict between the feeling that I belong in this strange Oxford world, and the feeling that I am out of place, leaves me with crippling anxiety for prelims. There is, on the one hand, the possibility of failure and expulsion, which in my darkest moments, I have looked on as a blessing in disguise. The thought of leaving here, however, fills me with a sense of dread; going to Oxford has become a part of my identity.

I play with the idea that I will revert to my former self after I have left university, as I struggle to reconcile the person I’ve become with whom I used to be. Rather, I feel like a character chosen in a simulation, and I play the game as I am meant to. Maybe I am struggling with the idea that I am changing as a person – I have changed too fast and am now racing to catch up with this new identity.

Yet I feel as though I am wearing a disguise. I have adapted a new language – I use words like ‘plodge’ and ‘glink’ naturally. In the comforting setting of my local Wetherspoons, my home friends laugh at my mention of the ‘vac’, and my inability to convey which term I am speaking about – first and second-term are no longer part of my vocabulary. My style has evolved to assimilate into the Oxford culture: I find myself sporting a striped thin scarf, and long skirts, which I would never have worn a year ago. As much as I have become an Oxford student, with Prelims looming, I battle with the thought I should not be here. Whilst dining in-hall in the first two terms, I paid little attention to the stained glass windows, the paintings and the high table. This term is different. The ceiling is further away and the windows are larger; the paintings are imposing and feature unfriendly faces. I chat away, making the occasional joke that I will be kicked out. I am not taken seriously.

In my university room, a board brims with photos of my sixth-form life. It feels less like a reflection of life at home, but rather now a tribute to a past life. I look at this person with a sense of longing. The confidence she had gradually faded, eclipsed by the seemingly unwavering self-assurance that radiates from those around me. Amidst these changes to my life and my personality, I have lost a sense of belonging. It is a harsh reality to feel as though you don’t quite fit in either of the places you consider home. My home bedroom makes my university photo collage look small; my wall is plastered with snapshots of a life I have outgrown, and yet I do not feel like I have grown into the Oxford student I aspired to be. Crying on FaceTime to my mum became a regular occurrence in the tumultuous first two weeks of Trinity. My fresher self was a cocky one: I had the naive belief that I could maintain a social life and obtain that coveted 2.1 in prelims. This illusion came crashing down when I attempted to craft a revision timetable and discovered I had a maximum of two hours available for each of my 16 courses. I look back wistfully at my secondary school self, who thought GCSEs were a struggle.

I have hope for the future; I am aware that I will evolve and grow in confidence once again. The transition from being a Year 13 who walked around like they owned the place to being thrown into the fragile position of a silly fresher shook me from the inside out; it shook out my old identity and left me ready to be moulded into this new person I am still not quite used to.