Oxford Calling

A blog about working full time and studying part time

I’m not sure about you, but I was a pretty terrible student the first time round. My undergraduate life generally involved late nights at the student bar, sleeping half the morning, and only when it couldn’t be avoided, the odd lecture and study session. But now, having been knocked into shape by the rigours of the finance sector, this slovenly attitude simply won’t do – there’s no way i’m giving up a chunk of my finances, social life, annual leave, and sanity in return for a so-so grade. So it make sense to figure out how i’m going learn properly BEFORE I start!

On first glace studying is pretty simple, read a few books, listen to lectures, and make a ton of notes, right? But how do you actually do these really well? There must be more to it than re-reading your notes and hoping for the best?

So in preparation for this new challenge I’m currently looking into optimal method for:

Taking notes in lectures

Reading lists and how to learn from them 

Optimal revision strategies and time management plans

Exam preparation 

There’s a lot to think about, even before I’ve laid a hand on a textbook! I’ll be sharing my thoughts on each of these in turn, and trying out a range of techniques to see which work best for me.

With the last few months focused exclusively upon the challenge of getting accepted, I hadn’t devoted much time to considering what would happen afterwards. But now, having secured my place, I’m suddenly confronted with the mental step-change of shifting from a remote ambition to a solid reality, and the practical life changes that it will entail. How on earth do I make room in my already busy schedule for study time, exam prep, and travelling to and from Oxford?

Firstly, my voluntary work is going to have to be scaled back to the essentials, so I’ve delegated a chunk of this to others. Then there’s my social life. Cutting down on pub time every week may not be a bad thing, but I’d go mad without a few good sessions of kicking back with friends over a few drinks. I’ve also identified other dead time in my day. The commute is an obvious one – 45 uninterrupted train time each morning will lend itself well to reading or listening. 

Then there’s the magic hour, after close of business, when the office is quiet, and I can get some decent study time under my belt before heading home.

It’s easy to focus on the benefits of going back to study, but serious consideration must be given to the family, social, and work time that will be sacrificed before taking the next steps.

Word is spreading of my impending student-hood, and the reactions I’m getting are not quite what I was expecting. Not sure what I anticipated from other people beyond a faint murmur of ‘well done’ and possibly a ‘best of luck’, but the comments have ranged from absolutely delighted to utterly horrified! Most people’s opinions have generally been one of the following:

“Study? Yuck! Poor you!” 

A few colleagues greeted the news as though a dreadful misfortune had befallen me, but if your own school and university weren’t happy times then I suppose you might not understand why anyone else would choose to repeat them.  

“But why? You already have a job?”

Others were genuinely baffled, gazing at me in disbelief at the sheer madness of my decision.  Having reached a nice comfortable level of employment. Deciding to give up a hefty chunk of finances, social life, and leisure time in return for more work, stress and hassle might seem strange, but and the skills that got me through the door many years ago are not the ones I’ll need to progress my career further, so it’s time to equip myself with some fresh knowledge and understanding for the next stage of my life.

“Ooo good for you, I’d LOVE to do something like that!”

My favourite reaction, usually accompanied by a big grin and a twinkle in the eye! A number of acquaintances harboured ambitions to hit the books again, but their life/family/financial situation mean it’s simply wasn’t possible. These people were really keen to follow I’m getting on, so it’ll be fun sharing tales of the journey with them.   

So my takeaway from all this? Don’t expect everyone to understand (or even fully support) your decision to go back to studying, but don’t allow the naysayers cast doubt on your decision either. If you know its right for you, that’s all that matters.