A degree can take over your life – just a bit. The hours spent reading in the library, hunched over your computer, the days spent memorising the names of bones; life at Cambridge can become nothing more than a relentless stream of work.
For so many people the only way to escape this monotony and reduce stress is through extra-curricular activities. In Cambridge there are so many opportunities to play sports, join societies, become a volunteer – the list is endless. Not only do you learn new skills by participating in these things, but you also have the chance to meet other people outside of the university bubble.
Charity and community work is especially good in this respect, as students get to interact with local people and thereby in a small way they can reconnect with reality. It is easy to forget about the real world and real people, therefore it is necessary to meet people from other walks of life to develop the people skills that will set you in good stead in the future.
Everyone is constantly reiterating how much our degrees are worth to us, and how we must not let other things get in the way of our studies for fear that we cannot find a job after university. But finding a job is not just about having a good degree: whether or not someone hires you will likely depend on you as a person too. Social skills, for example, are essential in all aspects of life, including a job interview. If you are unable to form good relationships with others then you are certain to face difficulties after university.
It is so easy to become removed from reality when studying at Cambridge, and we need to remember that life does not revolve around supervisions and lectures, in fact there are many more important life skills to be learned outside of academic studies.
This is where extra-curricular activities come into play, allowing students to get used to talking to strangers and therefore broadening their, often quite sheltered, view of the world. The life experience gained through doing things outside of your degree is what shapes you as a person. This is far, far more important than a degree, because the kind of skills people learn outside of the library are not teachable. Experience is crucial.