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First Impressions: A Fresher’s First Weeks at Christ Church

Written by Eliza Dean, posted on Thursday, November 5, 2020

Eliza Dean, a first-year studying Classics and French, describes the joys and challenges of being a Christ Church fresher during the pandemic.

Eliza Dean photographed by Mercury fountain in Tom Quad'What is it really like to be a fresher in 2020?' has been a question often posed to me by older and possibly more fortunate students who enjoyed a freshers’ week without (COVID-related) illness, isolation and inhibitions. To be frank, the prospect of coming to study at a beautiful college with great resources was slightly tainted with anxiety about settling in and making friends during a pandemic in a completely new and slightly daunting setting where the possibility of being locked in our rooms for weeks on end was looming. However, the general consensus is that starting as a fresher at Christ Church has been all but miserable, despite the numerous curveballs being thrown at us in the form of additional restrictions and self-isolation and the large proportion of events and teaching now being held online.

Unfortunately, many of the traditional aspects of Freshers’ Week evidently weren’t able to go ahead, but this didn’t stop our Freshers Reps from working hard to put on daily events for us so we could branch out socially. Matriculation gave us a sense of normality for a day as we dressed up in our sub fusc and went out for pictures in our households around Christ Church, always a stunning backdrop for any photo. Envisage a Christ Church BOP, and socially distanced huddles of freshers standing with drinks and dressed in binbags and bedsheets in Tom Quad is probably not what comes to mind, but the event was great fun despite having to disperse at ten o’clock!

Many facilities have still been open for us to use: in the first few weeks we were able to enjoy events in the Cathedral, including ‘Cathedral by Candlelight’, where we were fortunate to enjoy a variety of different music genres in a beautifully lit Cathedral equipped with multi-coloured glowsticks. Dinner has been going ahead every night in the grand Hall and sitting on the High Table on my first dinner in hall as a fresher was quite surreal. The library is a great place to get work done whilst also admiring the beautiful surroundings of the Upper Library which is available for us to book.

I also feel very lucky to have had a taste of the sense of community which still thrives in Christ Church, not least through the sports practices organised: biweekly netball has been a highlight as it has been easy to get to know and build rapports with fellow members of the House who aren’t in our ‘household bubbles’. Another similar opportunity has been the Chaplain’s Brain Strain Tea sessions every Thursday where we can wind down and have a break from a hard week of work over a socially distanced cup of tea and some cake; it has definitely motivated me to get essays done so I can enjoy my afternoon tea with no stress! The college family system has been invaluable, not only in helping me to find my way around the various complications and confusing acronyms which come as part of life at Oxford, but also because I have been privileged to be blessed with two dedicated and kind helpers in the year above plus two fun college siblings. Trying Christ Church’s signature cocktails in the new open-air marquee in the Master’s Garden and carving creative and college-related designs on our pumpkins for Halloween have also been notably enjoyable activities.

All in all, the pandemic has not stopped us freshers from settling into Christ Church and having a good time, and this integration is aptly symbolised by us now being able to don our new college stash so there is no way of differentiating us from the older students! Many thanks are of course due to everyone who has gone out of their way to accommodate and help us in these tumultuous times, and we look forward to enjoyably but safely continuing to make the most of our time in college.