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By Martin Dickson
Eight long weeks of library all-nighters, caffeine overdoses and essay crises (with the odd alcoholic binge thrown in when it all becomes too much) are over and you’re suddenly propelled into the longest Christmas holiday you could possibly imagine. Sleep is no longer a luxury, there is no sport fixture to play and no careers workshop you really think you should attend to prevent yourself from queuing up at the job centre at the end of your degree; you’re as free to do what you want as Jimmy Carr is to spend his earnings.
However, with freedom comes choices and with such a long vac you may find it difficult to fill this time. There’s only so much of revelling in your friends’ misfortune as they’re still subject to 7am wake up calls you can take before you get bored of writing ‘Just got up, LOL’ all over their Facebook walls. Think back to your primary school days when six weeks of summer holidays got a bit too much: freshers, you’re in for this all over again. To save you some deliberation, here are six things to do for each week of your Christmas vacation.
Let’s face it: it’s the typical Oxbridge thing to do, or at least what outsiders think is the typical Oxbridge thing to do. At the Freshers’ Fair they convinced you that that the Varsity Trip is part of the ‘Oxford Experience’, along with joining the Oxford Union and rowing (if you’ve got the stamina to pass the swim test; i.e. not me then), and with the exclusivity of Oxford and students from ‘the other place’, it certainly seems that way. The credibility of this falters when you’re told it sells out in six hours and you’re still receiving emails weeks after trying desperately to get you to buy a ticket. You then persist in mocking those who were ‘conned’ into buying tickets with only ‘a few people from college’ for the rest of Michaelmas only to be laughing on the other side of your face as the ‘Praise You’ video is shared all over Facebook and you realise what you missed out on. It would seem the extended sale period was less indicative of the quality of the trip, and more showing that even Oxford is hit by the recession.
What a way to end the term: partying hard and skiing drunk (I expect it’s like driving drunk, only legal), whilst burning off those term-time Dominos pizzas. It’s the only place where snow won’t be an inconvenience to you in the winter, and there’s nothing better to get you in the Christmas spirit. Of course, it’s all well and good saying this now, but head off to the slopes with your friends and family and impress next year when the six-hour rush may just make a return.
For those of you who think that skiing sounds too much like hard work, you can go the opposite way and do what Christmas is all about: binge eat! Of course, you can begin your journey into short-term obesity in Oxford as Matchsticks and Yule logs appear on the shelves of Tesco before even Halloween is over, but December is the month to put this into full swing. The attempts at healthy eating you had planned to maintain go out the window as your five-a-day turns from five apples to five segments of Terry’s Chocolate Orange (or, the whole thing if you’re feeling really healthy).
It then comes to Christmas Day when you convince yourself that the rules on calorie intake and weight gain don’t really apply as you pig-out on anything you can possibly get your hands on, remembering that you always finish it all when dawn breaks and Boxing Day comes around. However, be careful not to convince yourself that you can burn off all that stuffing in the New Year with a new fitness DVD, because just as quick as Christmas came around, you’re straight into Creme Egg season.
Eating alone is always miserable, so go ahead and eat with the cast of the ‘Only Way is Essexmas’ as you tune into what Christmas TV has to offer. You’ve spent eight weeks watching TV on iPlayer and 4OD, or the rebellious of you may have tuned into TVCatchup.com hoping that Big Brother isn’t watching you, but now you can return to having the convenience of Sky+ and every episode of Geordie Shore you’ve missed during Michaelmas. To celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, the BBC voluntarily brings all of its old comedies out of the closet (in a much better fashion than it does secrets of its past presenters) as you’re provided with countless ‘Christmas specials’ of the shows you thought had finally been eradicated from your life and had been confined to the domain of ‘Dave’.
So, once The X Factor has been and gone, and another hopeless wonder heads off to cover an all-time classic for Christmas number one; this year’s ‘winner’s single’ being the unforgettable ‘Invincible’ by that well-known songstress Shontelle (the Barbadian singer that isn’t Rihanna), you know that those all-time Christmas classic movies of Shrek and Harry Potter are to grace your TV screen. If anyone can explain how the story of an ogre has anything to do with Christmas, please do let me know. Nevertheless, whilst we can all be sarcastic about the quality of what the Beeb and ITV have to offer, realistically we’ll all end up getting lost watching this trash at some point as we look for anything more attractive than reliving tutorials of the past term. It isn’t all futile either, the end of the year bringing the best summary of current affairs any employer could hope for in your application for internships as ‘The Big Fat Quiz of the Year’ returns to take a light-hearted look at the year we’ve just endured.
If the standard weekly itinerary of Camera, Park End and Bridge wasn’t enough during term time, Christmas is the perfect chance to give your liver another beating. It’s less champagne and cocktails and more the festivities of mulled wine with the odd bottle of Baileys thrown in. Indeed, Christmas may be the only time of year that Bucks Fizz can really be regarded as socially acceptable, so grasp the opportunity while you can. Once Christmas is over, your liver should only get a one-week break before it’s time to celebrate the year that was and the year that is to come. Whether 2012 has been the best or worst year of your life, there seems to always be an excuse to celebrate, and this time it doesn’t matter what you drink: the New Year protocol is ‘anything you can possibly grab hold of’. If you can’t think of a good enough reason, just remind yourself that you’ve just survived ‘the end of the world’ (along with everyone else – but don’t tell yourself that if you want to feel special).
Have a Rest
The one good thing about consuming alcohol and being able to return to the comfort of your home is that there’s no obligation to get up at 7am and head to the lecture theatre to show your physical attendance whilst your brain is even less present than your dignity which you left at Bridge the night before. It’s called a Christmas break for a reason: this is your time to rest. When you updated your Facebook with a status to the effect of ‘Homeward bound!’ all your friends from universities across the land would have been steaming with jealousy as they still had essay deadlines and exams to face and the only thing they could think to call you was a ‘part-timer’. Looking from the outside-in, a measly 8-week term may make us seem exactly that, but your fellow Oxford students will be there to back you up about the intensity of those 8 weeks and the fact that you really deserve to give yourself a break. In fact, this time you can spare more than a Kit-Kat (not that it was ever substantial, regardless of what the advertisers want us to think).
While you’re the temporary Billy No-Mates of your hometown because your friends are still studying hard at university, there’s no better excuse for you to head off on a tour of UK nightlife using the free accommodation of your friends’ student halls. Even if you’re not a ‘going out’ person, it’s probably nice to watch someone stressing about his or her first essay of the term (and we’re part-timers?!) in the knowledge that you have virtually nothing to do.
Do Some Work
Once you’re off the horse, it’s difficult to get back on it. Too much rest will just make you a sloth, and so you should embrace the opportunity of your friends still working away to do some of that yourself. Of course, quite rightly, no one will advocate that you continue the all-nighters of Michaelmas; by the end of Hilary you’ll be one Red Bull away from a breakdown, so take it slow and steady but get something done to avoid stressing as you head back for collections.
There will always be some students who will claim that they will get next term’s reading complete so that they can ‘enjoy’ Hilary, but realistically, that will never happen – and even if they do, no one else will achieve it with them, so they’ll just be ‘enjoying’ Hilary alone. That said, you don’t want to be the one left behind as you return back to begin work and everyone knows what your tutor is talking about except you. When you don’t have the money to do anything else, remind yourself of the simple equation that ‘hard work = better job’, and maybe in years to come when you’re in this same position you can take Christmas to another, more pricey, level.