Betraying the family: Choosing Cambridge over Oxford

Rosie Jewell 28 November 2013

There is an intense rivalry between myself and my Grandpa nowadays. Note the visible consternation of my Grandmother when the issue of ‘which end of the punt’ is raised; how the dining table groans, threatening to cleave itself in two, betwixt our dinnertime war of vocabulary (it’s a COURT not a quadrangle, please); how our family have found themselves caught in a crossfire of rowing results and university rankings, forced to choose allegiance between a wise patriarch and the young pretender who as yet has not read a fraction of the literary material required to dismantle his intellectual reign. Indeed, the fact that I did not strictly follow in the hallowed footsteps of my Grandpa, alumnus of Lincoln College, The Other Place, constitutes a betrayal comparable to, say, Mark Thatcher setting up a mineworkers union.

Ok, well not quite. The truth is that in year 12 when I discovered all things UCAS I had no idea where to go to university. Coming from a low-income household, with separated parents, neither of whom stayed on after GCSE’s let alone got into university, the task of picking my preferred site of further education was turning into a stick-a-pin-in-the-map situation.  My mother, grammar-school rebel, flunker, biker, rocker, dairy farmer, wanderer of Europe, and artist, had spent the last 17 years of her life trying to prise me away from my book to walk the dogs. Not once in my life, to this day, has she told me to do my work. This instilled in me a very strong sense of independent motivation, no doubt, but when it came to choosing a university, she and I were clueless. All I knew was that I was drawing a line across from Nottingham and wouldn’t go further north than that.

Grandpa, astute, well-read, unassuming and with the sharpest tongue, became my role model. Initially I did desire to follow him and apply to Lincoln at Over There. As it turns out, at some point in the next year I was persuaded that for some arbitrary reason Cambridge would be much better and here I am. I was right, but I know that the thought would never have crossed my mind if it weren’t for Grandpa. And I probably wouldn’t have had the determination to get here if Mum hadn’t taught me to get on with my homework on my own. Cheers, guys.