Things I’ve learnt from being halfway through my first year at Cambridge

Let’s just keep romanticising the pretty buildings

Now that we are at Week Five of Lent term, we are officially halfway through the academic year. Amidst supo deadlines, non-stop lectures, and the Week Five blues slowly creeping in, it can be hard to find time to reflect on the first term and a half spent in Cambridge. Even though I am by no means a Cambridge expert, these are the things I’ve discovered about how to not just survive but thrive at this university.

It will go quickly

While I know this one is a cliché, it is completely true. I remember being told by older students, my teachers, my parents, and pretty much everyone around me to enjoy university because these three or four years will go quicker than I could imagine.

Although part of me always thought they were exaggerating, they were completely right. Particularly at Cambridge where terms are short and packed with so much to do, the weeks tend to fly by without us even noticing. I don’t think there is any way to stop it from going fast, so all there is to do is enjoy it!

The workload will get overwhelming – it’s inevitable

You are not a failure if you don’t meet every single deadline. You will, probably many times, get overwhelmed with the amount of work you are receiving, and how to balance doing it all while being a normal sane person with a social life.

Cambridge is a place full of academic overachievers and all of us love a bit of academic validation, but it is okay to struggle with the workload here. It is okay to ask for help – your DOS or supervisor is usually nicer than they may seem…

It will be stressful

While the workload alone is overwhelming, being surrounded by other equally – if not more – intelligent people and constantly being critiqued and assessed by supervisors magnifies the stress you will feel at Cambridge. I still remember being absolutely terrified for my first ever supervision, and while some of that stress and fear still lingers, it does get easier.

But regardless, with so much going on all the time it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly running at 100 miles per hour, and the stress of this will get to you. And while being ridiculously stressed out is not a fun feeling to have, there is something comforting in knowing that everyone here has felt the same way at some point.

Rest is important

Again, I know this one is cliché too, but it is really important to make sure you are well-rested. Without rest the work is only going to be 10 times more difficult. And rest doesn’t have to be difficult – it could really just be going for a little walk as a study break, going to bed slightly earlier one night, or going to spend a bit of time with your friends.

While sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, work isn’t everything and it’s important to remember to be young and have fun. And after all, spending a couple of hours at the pub with your friends occasionally is not going to affect your degree in the long-term.

You won’t keep all the friends you made in Freshers’ Week!

Freshers’ Week was quite possibly the most hectic, busy, and chaotic time of my life. Adjusting to a completely new environment on your own while constantly meeting new people often feels like a whirlwind, and it is very normal for us to make friends with the first people we see.

But not every person you meet is going to be your lifelong best friend – in fact it’s quite rare for your first friends you make here to be your closest friends (although that’s not to say it never happens!). Now we’re halfway through the year, friendships will have moved around and certain people will have clicked better than others, and it is okay for you to not be as close with the people you met at the start of the year.

Your social life is what you make of it

Obviously, no one’s first thought they they think of Cambridge is “good nightlife”. The clubs are small and often quite sweaty, and personally I’m not the biggest fan of Wednesday Revs. However, having bad clubs does not equate to having a bad social life.

There are plenty of ways to have fun around Cambridge, whether it be at the pub, at a formal, or even some of the club nights. I am also a strong believer that the people you are with is far more important than what you are doing. So go out, explore, and find your own ways to have fun.

The ‘Cambridge bubble’ is real

The ‘Cambridge bubble’ is a term I heard a lot from older students when I first got here, but no one could properly explain what it really was. But now having lived here for a few months, I completely understand it.

It’s the feeling of being somewhat cut off from the real world, spending eight weeks at a time going to the same places and doing the same things every day. We may resurface when we go back home, but we are sucked back in immediately at the start of the next term. All the old Cambridge traditions probably do not help this sense of isolation from the outside world.

While the bubble is nice to have as a kind of safety net, knowing that you’re safe in your daily university life and routine, it does really help to remember than the outside world exists and Cambridge isn’t everything.

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