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The void of intermitting from Cambridge: What I’ve learned

Is it really worth the isolation, stress and paperwork?


Intermission, for such a widespread phenomenon, isn’t discussed very often. Although over 200 students intermit per year according to the SU, it’s a topic where information is hard to come by. Intermission (or disregarding terms) involves taking time out of your studies, often a year, and returning once your personal circumstances have improved.

Intermission or Christmas? My friends were very generous with leaving gifts!

I was the first in my year to intermit. This meant I had no friends who had been there, done that: not exactly ideal. Luckily, my supervisor helped me to get into contact with someone who had intermitted in the past, who helped clear up the confusion surrounding disregarding terms.

The SU website is also a great source of information on intermission, as well as your tutor. Despite this, the pressing paperwork and the pressure to organise documents is a lot like salt in the wound of having to leave your friends and stop studying.

Intermitting was the right decision for me; however, by its nature, it was very isolating. It’s a little like being exiled from college – no library, no studying, no room and friends who are far away. Communication was sparse. When I returned, I was behind as I wasn’t sent reading lists, which certainly didn’t help.

I went home for my intermission

This may lead you to wonder: Is there even a point to intermitting?

I would say that yes, there is a point. Intermission can be a period of learning. Not academic learning, but life learning.

Intermission, though it is hard, gives you time to reflect on what went well and what can be improved from the work you have managed to do. Many people are confused about what you actually do on intermission, and reflection is very important. If you can come out of an intermission knowing what you need to do when you return, then the intermission is worth it.

I also tried to keep in frequent contact with my friends, and old friends visited from home as well. Intermission taught me the importance of reaching out. Relationships don’t maintain themselves – you have to put in the effort. I have also become a lot more grateful for the friends I do have (and the opportunities to make new friends after intermitting), and how kind they have been throughout the process.

My leaving cake featuring hand-piped messages, served on a lattice of drizzled chocolate and finished with expertly crafted flowers

Though it isn’t easy having disruption to the flow of your studies, ultimately if you or your tutor think intermission is a good idea, then it’s probably for the best in the long run. Intermission is hard, and it isn’t pretty – some people intermit for medical issues, family issues, stress or burnout, which naturally makes it an unpleasant process.

Intermission can, however, allow you time to reflect that the hectic Cambridge term does not allow for. For students who have come straight from A-levels or other education, there can be little time for personal development. Coming to understand your strengths, weaknesses and how to maintain relationships is worth the break if you need it.