Bursting the bubble: Surviving outside Cambridge

Ellie Coote 15 January 2015

On 4 October 2014, somewhere between the A1134 and Silver Street, I was suddenly engulfed by the Cambridge bubble. After being wined and dined to within an inch of my life, I eventually gave myself over to its force, only to be spat out again eight weeks later. 

Shoving a term’s worth of washing into a suitcase, I was driven 70 miles southwest by a man claiming to be my father (though there are two secondyears in Queens’ who would argue otherwise), and began the long struggle to integrate.

Surviving outside the bubble is much like leaving Hogwarts: feigning knowledge of current affairs, suppressing your abbreviated 
incantations, and learning to live without the help of house elves. I mean bedders. So here is a concise list of all you must relinquish in order to appear ‘normal’: 


Your wine glass  No one’s going to offer you wine anymore, so you might as well invest in a large bottle of Peach Schnapps. 

Being nocturnal – Regular sleeping and working patterns evaporated by week 0, your hopeful timetable discarded in the face of 3am gin-logged, tear-stained 700-word essays. Being subtly nudged out of a friend’s house at 11pm in my first week back home, I felt like Judy Garland in that film…

Abbreviations – Either struggle to the end of ‘Director of Studies’, or just stop talking altogether. They stopped listening somewhere between natsci and plodge anyway.

Talking about bops, or Cindies – They sound nowhere near as fun as other universities, and describing bops as ‘like school discos’ or mentioning Cindies’s Disney repertoire doesn’t do them any sort of justice. 

To add insult to injury, I live in Oxford, home of the Bodleian Library where people have been listening to pins drop since 1602. Living in ‘the Other Place’ is like arriving in a parallel universe with all the shops and colleges in the wrong order. This made my uni-sickness all the more agonising as I spent my holiday dreaming of college life while strolling past architectural lookalikes. Therefore, my most crucial pointer on how to survive outside the bubble: 

Don’t live in Oxford – It’s like an alcoholic living in an empty bottle of whisky.