From Christmas ceremonies to college chats, Cambridge is a special and quirky place – students know this more than most.
I graduated from Cambridge University on June 23, 2016 – better known as Brexit Day.
It was a weird backdrop for the biggest day of my life at that point: however you voted, there were a lot of emotions, for everyone, on a day. already moving.
Four years later I returned to the city as a reporter for Cambridgeshire Live – and what a pleasure it was.
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Much has changed in the country, but Cambridge is a wonderful place to live, anytime, whatever your job.
However, there are some things about this beautiful city that you cannot really getting to know by being a student – here are some of the highlights.
1. Which college you attend is important – for some people
Entering Girton College was a dream come true.
For those unfamiliar with the college, who haven’t seen a flash of red brick down the road from Huntingdon Road, this is a lavish Victorian building. Comparisons to Hogwarts are easy.
But my belief that this was a universally brilliant place was tested by a drunken Central University resident during Freshers Week.
When I told him I was in Girton, he started pointing his finger and yelling “I found one!” I found one! to his friends, apparently unable to believe that I applied directly to college, rather than being pooled (the system by which colleges with more applicants send students to other colleges).
Stop the press: some Cambridge uni students are a snobbish bunch.
2. Girton is far away – but worth it
The ‘bike thigh’ jibe popped up every now and then – a reference to the fact that Girton is the furthest of Cambridge’s 31 colleges, just over 2 miles from the city center.
Girton is one of the largest colleges and has one of the largest student populations in public schools, with more than 70% of state graduates in 2020.
I appreciated this relative diversity and the chance to meet people from different backgrounds.
3. You spend a lot of time walking in long hallways
Girton has its fair share of these – it’s a big old place – and you can get to pretty much anywhere on the site without stepping outside.
However, there can be some surprising benefits to hanging out, given that I didn’t realize I needed glasses until I found myself squinting at some teardrop-shaped friends in the eye. other end of the halls.
4. The porters keep you on your guard
Each college has a number of Cambridge porters at the front desk. They are the keepers of keys and bad jokes.
If you lock yourself out of your room (when you lock yourself out of your room), you have to go to reception and ask them to let you in.
A humiliating process, but one that they still seemed to enjoy.
5. College chats reign supreme
Buster was a well-fed cat. The friendly murderer is now immortalized in a stunning portrait.
6. Sunday evenings are spent at Life (now called Vinyl), Wednesday evenings at Cindies (Ballare)
Cambridge students aren’t the most fun-loving and aren’t really stuck in the nightlife as much as they should – their particular way of working hard, playing hard involves a lot of disguises. And bad shirts.
7. Crack the Christmas ceremonies
Formal dinners are fancy business. Girton’s featured a bit of Latin and a big gong before you could sit down.
At Christmas, the venue always looks like a picture, and Girton’s red and green colors really make sense – again, it’s worth it. I cannot stress this enough.
8. Try not to run over tourists on your bikes
For those trying to avoid bikes, two-wheeled pests undoubtedly seem like an unruly mob, but let me tell you, there isn’t a little skill out there.
Dodging tourists, avoiding vans – and other cyclists – is a skill few arrive in Cambridge with, but almost all leave with.
9. Need to have a strong opinion on the best take-out van
Van of life, van of death. Two very close and very different places selling post-pub food.
A garbage, a glorious one.
I would tell you which is which, but some secrets must be kept secret.
10. Having a hangover in supervisions was the worst
Hangovers are not existential until you are in your 30s.
But having a hangover in supervision (small teaching classes Cambridge is famous for) is a truly haunting experience.
11. Row or marvel at the other students who row
If your hangover has lasted beyond your supervision, meeting friends who have been up since 6 a.m. rowing can seem pretty mind-blowing.
A fresh face, beaming with the healthy sense of an athlete, it’s all a bit imposing – so it’s good that wearing thermal joggers and leggings takes them down a notch or two.
12. Hear from eccentric speakers
Fellows are a source of fascination – brilliant and mysterious.
There are always stories of more eccentric teachers: classic teachers who run a website that translates the Latin phrases of people they want to get tattoos, English teachers who teach in front of a roaring fireplace, and much more.
You name it, there’s a rumor someone is doing it.
13. College “weddings” are one thing
In the first trimester, you try to find your “husband” or “wife” in college, a marriage in which you will have a son or daughter the following year – a fresher one to look after.
Proposals are encouraged to be as outrageous and OTT as possible, and so that the target of your proposal is someone you don’t know. Actually want to get married. It can get awkward.
14. Biking home after night outings and almost biking in a bush every time
Listen, kids don’t do it, but sometimes it is necessary to ride a drunk bike.
For the Girtoniens that meant trying to avoid the very big and beautiful bushes on the way to Huntingdon Road, and all too often not.
Take the bus next time.
15. Consumer societies are (almost) as outrageous as everyone says
If you attend ‘Ceserean Sunday’ – when students gather on Jesus Green for a last day of watered picnic before exams – you may end up as a stock photo in The sun.
16. Playlists cause a library race
When everyone writes the same essays, they all want to read the same books.
And so, when the lists are released for Work of the Week, you end up with a sort of Bourne Identity-style action thriller, with dozens of college students charging in at UL, through the door, into the stairs and in the hallways, each wanting a delivered.
It’s more exciting than it looks. Honestly.
17. Many students from Cambridge to London don’t know where the Midlands are
I am from Nottingham, NOT the North. This required some explanation.
18. The dresses are great
Part of the formal side of Cambridge is having to wear a dress sometimes, and there’s no snobbery in saying they’re the best.
Ride the bike in one and you will feel like an eco-friendly Batwoman; walk into one and you feel like the royal family.
I cannot recommend buying one enough.
19. You eat under a sea of austere oil paintings by former college masters
Or, in Girton, mistresses.
It has a proud feminist history as the premier college for women.
20. You sign up for a million different companies in Freshers Week
And spend the next three years unsubscribing from their emails.
21. Like Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got until he’s gone.
In my case in Girton, a beautiful orchard and a swimming pool, that was something I took for granted.
You go from being a kid in school to living in this beautiful little world, and that’s all you’ve ever known as a real person.
You can be grateful, and still far from grateful enough.
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22. People are impressed when you tell them you’ve been to Cambridge. But listen to their cries if something goes wrong… “I thought you went to Cambridge!”
Oh, this one is getting old. Quickly.
23. You miss it – that’s why I came back
Being a student at Cambridge is a total privilege, but it is difficult. Long hours, tight deadlines, high stress.
With all this it is sometimes hard to catch your breath and really appreciate how beautiful and sparkling Cambridge is – that’s why I was so happy to come back and write for Cambridgeshire Live.
You never really leave a city like this. Glad to have another chance to enjoy it again.
This article was originally published in 2020.
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