Going to university can be scary enough as it is, but when you’re a young carer, there’s a whole other aspect to consider. A young carer is somebody who cares for another person (often family members) with mental and/or physical disabilities. The process of moving away from my family, even if only for the short Oxford terms, was something I found incredibly scary, as I would not be able to be there for my family when they needed me. Particularly because of the pandemic, this was something that really affected my moving and settling in processes.
Throughout my first year, likely along with most other freshers, I felt a lot of impostor syndrome. It seems like impostor syndrome comes with the “Oxbridge experience”, but being a young carer added another level to this, as I felt like I shouldn’t be at university, rather, with my family. Through talking to my friends, family, and generally just sticking it out, I started to overcome this feeling. I think impostor syndrome is always there to some degree, for a lot of Oxbridge students, even if it does start to go away over time. But it’s important that you reach out to people if it’s becoming overwhelming, especially as a young carer.
Even after the feeling of impostor syndrome became manageable, I still found it difficult being away from my family, and not knowing what was going on. Talking to my family often resolved some of this worry, but it never entirely goes away while I’m at university, rather than at home. Welfare support at Oxford 🔗 🌟, and at my college, has been really helpful for me. There is always somebody to talk to, no matter what is on my mind. Additionally, if you are finding it quite difficult to settle into university as a young carer, your tutors should be able to support you academically, for example, if you need deadline extensions or you are going through a particularly tough or stressful time. The University Counselling Service is also a great resource, so if you are finding it particularly difficult to adjust to university, don’t be afraid to give counselling a try!
In terms of more specific, practical support available, unpacking my room every term is something that I’ve found difficult, since I’m not able to be driven to and from University every term. Colleges often have some storage for the vacation, but if this storage is very limited, reach out and try to discuss alternatives! If you do need to travel back home during term-time, talk to your tutors, as they should be able to move tutorials online or offer extensions. At Oxford, there is also financial aid 🔗 for those already receiving bursaries, who live far away from Oxford, which should cover travelling costs. If costs become an issue, definitely reach out to your college!
Settling into university may take a little longer, or be different to how others adjust, but over time, it will become easier. Don’t feel that any of your feelings or problems are “not worth bringing up”, because there is always beneficial support available – academic, welfare, and practical – which will massively improve your experience at Oxbridge.