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The Cambridge guide to breakups

How to get over your ex while staying on top of your supo work


Let’s face it, breakups are hell – wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever happened. But I can think of worse places to be than Cambridge. It may seem like being part of one of the most academically gruelling institutions in the world would hinder the healing process, but I’ve compiled a list of ways you can try and use it to your advantage.

(Results may vary)

Rely on your friends and (college) family

You won’t have time to go home and get moral support from your real family – this is a privilege not afforded to people with eight week terms – so luckily your college will have given you a fake one.

It may seem like your significant other was the most important person in your life, but if you’re anything like me, you will have made some pretty incredible friends at uni, and now is the time to make the most of that. Spend as much time as you can with the people who love you, and soon you will remember that romantic love is not the be all and end all.

Touch some grass

I desperately wish I’d been born in a time where women were still being diagnosed with melancholia and prescribed sea air to fix their damaged souls, but alas, here I am in 2023, so the best I can do is go for a concerningly long solo walk along the Cam.

Don’t be like me and fail to leave your college for six days straight; it will only make things worse. I was personally devastated to learn that the advice of my annoyingly athletic boatie friends and all those lifestyle influencers on TikTok is actually correct: going outside helps, and you will feel better once you’ve forced yourself to do it.

Coe fen curing my woes (Image credits: Sam Allen)

Stoop to the level of a tourist

They may instil uncontainable levels of rage inside me on King’s Parade or in Mainsbury’s on a Saturday, but tourists and day-trippers do have some of their priorities straight.

They may instil uncontainable levels of rage inside me on King’s Parade or in Mainsbury’s on a Saturday, but tourists and day-trippers do have some of their priorities straight.

Speaking of queues, they’re also right when it comes to Fitzbillies. I can barely get through a normal day without purchasing an overpriced sweet treat as a reward for doing absolutely nothing, so there’s no better time to buy a £5 slice of cake than in the middle of a breakup. Treat yourself; for once you actually deserve it!

Sleep when you’re dead

One of the worst parts of your newfound singeldom will undoubtedly be sleeping alone, but fear not, for I have the perfect solution: just don’t sleep! I stayed awake until 7am a few days after the breakup (who knew the ADC bar could stay open until 05:30?) and I don’t regret it at all.

My sleep schedule has genuinely still not recovered almost a week later, but it was a lot of fun, and it gave me an excuse to avoid my slightly more depressing reality. Bonus tip: do it while there are strikes on so it doesn’t matter if you sleep until 6pm and wake up with no idea who you are or what time zone you’re in.

I am now convinced sunrises look better when you haven’t slept yet (Image credits: Sam Allen)

Reluctantly put yourself back out there

The truth is, if you’re nervous about getting back into dating, there’s no better uni to be at than one where everyone is so lacking in social skills that it seems like they too have been off the market for a whole 12 months.

The prospect of college-cest and course-cest and staircase-cest does send literal chills down my spine, but there’s no time like the present, and there’s nothing as good for the plot as a chaotic rebound. Cambridge may be slightly culty and incestuous, but at least you’ve got options!

Explore Cambridge’s famously exhilarating night-life

I ended up in Revs for the first time a few days after my breakup (take from that what you will) and I must say it certainly did the trick. There’s nothing quite like cheap booze and a room full of sweaty students – half of whom you recognise just enough to feel awkward around but not enough to talk to – to remind you of the joys of being single.

In all seriousness though, it was a welcome distraction if nothing else, and one less night spent wallowing in my room. It might not be London or Manchester, but even a Cambridge night out is better than a night in when you’re going through a tough time.

Some painfully real toilet cubicle graffiti I saw in a Cambridge pub. Good to know I’m not alone. (Image credits: Sam Allen)

Become an academic weapon

There’s always the option of turning your sadness into motivation, and putting all of the effort you used to put into your relationship into your degree instead. Not only will you succeed and impress everyone around you, but you will also force your ex to see you winning, and in turn be even more determined to do well out of spite (or is that just a me thing?)

This is a particularly advisable path to take if you have one of those supervisors who responds to cry-for-help emails by pushing back your deadline by a single day. Soulless individuals, the lot of them.

Become the exact opposite of an academic weapon

Alternatively, you can do what I did, and not do a single piece of work for ten days, irreversibly affecting your work ethic, chances of success, and reputation with your supervisor.

You only live once though, and mitigating circumstances don’t come around often, so I say make the most of it. Shoutout to my supervisor for letting me slack off for the week – once an engling, always an engling.

A real line from an email I sent my poor, poor supervisor. (Image credits: Sam Allen)

Exploit your pain for art (or The Tab)

If you can’t turn your heartache into academic productivity, you can always use it for creative output instead. Do all the things your degree doesn’t enable you to do.

Write poetry, journal, draw, paint, sing, write a self indulgent article for The Tab in an attempt to distract yourself from your emotions and feel productive without actually doing any work… whatever helps you cope.

All jokes aside, breakups are an incredibly difficult thing for anyone to go through, and you shouldn’t have to let your degree make it even harder.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and don’t for a second think you’re alone.