The surprising perks of living in Cambridge

Image credit: Jane Wright

I will readily admit that there are lots of things I find immensely frustrating about Cambridge as a place. When I want to go for lunch or dinner with friends, I find myself tired of having only a handful of places to choose from. When I want something that can’t be found in Sainsbury’s, I curse the fact that central Cambridge is so tiny. I must admit, too, that I still feel disarmed by the fact that I am, at any time, no more than twenty minutes away from a cow.

My hometown of Dublin is hardly a sprawling metropolis, and I do sometimes wonder how people from actual big cities cope with the strange sensation of being in what is, effectively, just a large town. Moving to Cambridge, having lived the rest of my life somewhere multiples larger, still has left me confused, no matter how much time passes.

However, I’m slowly (and begrudgingly) learning that there are a lot of really nice things about living somewhere of this size. At school, visiting friends was at least a twenty-minute walk, and at most an hour’s bus journey away. If I wanted to go clothes shopping, I had to take the tram into town (and, at €4.20 a pop for a return ticket, I usually opted to walk half an hour into the city centre instead).

Indeed, to a Londoner, lamenting this is probably laughable – but to someone living in Cambridge, this feels like a very serious matter. I will never tire of being able to reach my friends’ rooms in a mere thirty seconds, or of being ten minutes from H&M. I love that I can spend a whole day working in college and still be surrounded by friends, and that I am always bound to bump into someone I know on a trip to get my post (never mind one to Sainsbury’s).

As a natural extrovert, feeling connected is what gives me the energy I need to keep going – and when I’m swamped with essays, supervisions, readings and coursework, I am sorely in need of this energy. I imagine it’d be next to impossible to get through this without the prospect of seeing friends at dinnertime, or at least the knowledge that I can get in touch with them whenever I need.

When I moved to Cambridge first, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed by the lack of excitement the town has to offer. However, I see now that this is really a result of my own narrow conception of what a nice environment is. Moving to a smaller city means you lose a lot of what you might originally see as excitement. However, the feeling of knowing people – and being known – is a lot nicer than the kind of anonymity of living somewhere bigger.

Have I changed my mind about what kind of environment I’d like to live in in future? No, admittedly not – but I have grown to appreciate an entirely different way of experiencing life.

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