Extracurricular or academia?

Amiya Nagpal 17 March 2017

It is undeniable that Cambridge contains one of the most intensely pressured environments possible: You can almost taste the pervading anxiety concerning the true legitimacy of our offers, the progress of our work, and the desire to seek perfection, coupled with the more general concerns about our embarkations on an individual life away from home. It is no wonder, therefore, that most of us seek some respite from this by participating in extracurricular activities – but even these come with troubles of their own.

We all have differing approaches to academia. We work at diverse paces and at a variety of times; we have dissimilar modes of study; and we are moved by unique motivations. Yet our individual opinions about our studies also carry forward to the various attitudes held concerning extracurriculars. You may see studying as the sole focus of your time in Cambridge, hobbies might be your priority, or you could sit at any point in between these positions. I know I fluctuate between wanting to focus on my work and desiring to get involved with everything I can get my hands on. My inability to give equal support to both ambitions past a certain point fills me with feeling of failure. Everyone else seems to be managing to juggle sports and acting and committee positions and writing and socialising, while also being on track for a First. My fear that I may not be able to do either terrifies me.

This is worse for some extracurricular activities in particular, such as theatre, where there seems to be an unspoken requirement to abandon one’s academic activity in its entirety. The workload for such pastimes is so intense that there is no time left at all to actually participate in one’s degree – all energy must be on the task at hand. While extracurriculars can provide a helpful break from one’s degree, there needs to be a balance between the two – we are, after all, at Cambridge for a degree. Though hobbies are important, work is too, and these categories should not be regarded as mutually exclusive. It is possible to juggle both.

But it is important to recognise that this juggling can be problematic. Our situations in Cambridge often alter, and so we must be ready to abandon our hobbies to turn to our degrees, or vice versa, if we feel we need to. It is possible to support both tasks, but this must be done at our own pace – we learn what we can handle, and it is perfectly okay for others to be participating in more, or less, than we are.

What matters most is for us to have a nice time in Cambridge, and this should be done in the best way we, as individuals, see fit.