Diary of a Shadow

Hannah Howard 30 June 2011

Last term, hundreds of sixth formers descended on Cambridge to take part in the annual CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

The scheme sees pupils paired with current University students for a long weekend. Shadows get a taste of Cambridge life, attending lectures with the undergraduate they are following, taking part in workshops, and going to formal hall.

Hannah Howard took part in the scheme. Her diary, the winner of a competition to be published in TCS, does not just reveal the feelings of an A level student seeing the University for the first time – it also shows why the Shadowing Scheme is so important.

“Nervous?” I asked Dan, another student from my college who had secured a place on the scheme.

“No” replied Dan as we boarded the train from Liverpool, “You?”


Luckily, I had absolutely no reason to be. On arriving in Cambridge, we were warmly ushered into a minivan, which took us to Emmanuel for our introductory talk. As the driver, Engineering student Jack, chatted to us about the lovely city and university life, my nerves evaporated. A little.

After an informative admissions talk, I was picked up by a group of Homerton students. Everyone was so lovely, that by now, I was buzzing!

That night, after a tour of Homerton College, me and my fellow shadows were treated to a Pizza Hut meal, before attending a lecture in the Cambridge union. I didn’t understand much, granted, but the speakers were inspiringly charismatic; I was left with lots to think about.

Friday was a busy day. Along with my shadow, Jasmine, I visited Colleges around Cambridge and loved every single one. Was my loyalty to Homerton wavering?

As a Geography shadow, I got the chance to attend two lectures, and although I’d like to say I was enthralled by economic clusters and food scarcity, most of it went over my head – the insight, however, was invaluable and the faculty’s library was overwhelming, featuring books from arctic expeditions to the politics of opera!

After this I took part in a great journalism workshop at the Cambridge student. I got, as an aspiring journalist, an awe-worthy insight into how a newspaper goes together, and even got to write my own article. The team were lovely, and I left laden down with bags, notebooks, pens and even a complimentary Cambridge t-shirt!

Friday night was a chance to relax and socialise in a pressure free environment with Homerton students. It was a great insight into University life-and I certainly liked what I saw! Everyone was so friendly, which is not exactly what I expected!

Overall, the experience was amazing. On Saturday, we received an admissions talk – knowing what Cambridge’s entry requirements are has giving me something to work towards, and when piles of English essays are getting me down, I think of the shadowing scheme and the experience to spur me on – my ultimate goal is to become a Cambridge student one day. The weekend affirmed that dream for me!

Hannah Howard