Identity crisis: becoming a gownie after being a townie

Freya Sanders 9 February 2014

I am one of very few freshers who, back at the start of Michaelmas, cycled to uni on coming-up day, knew precisely where the societies fair was located, and understood the intricacies of the one-way system in town. Indeed, I am one of those bizarre creatures who applies to uni in their hometown. I was once – and still am, come the vac – a townie.

People often look at me in horror when I make such an admission, citing Cambridge’s tininess and intensity as reasons why eighteen years is long enough to spend in this glorious city. But as a student I’ve seen a whole new side to my beloved hometown: Ballare has become Cindies; The Regal has become Spoons; Cineworld is unheard of and Girton, once a short bike ride away, might as well be in another county.

But it’s true that Cambridge is very, very small; in leaving college, I can essentially guarantee that I will see at least five people I know – whether they be townies or gownies, my old teachers or my parents.

The streets are also full of memories – not all of them pleasant. Every visit to Aldi is haunted by remembrances of driving lessons spent repeatedly reversing into the parking bays there, lamenting my poor affinity with heavy machinery. Similarly, I can’t walk over Clare Bridge without seeing the spot where I fell into the Cam at the age of eight.

So far, each beginning and end of term has provoked minor identity crises. Given the supposed enmity between townies and gownies, transitioning between the two is confusing. However, I find comfort in the fact that we all share some views. Both groups, for example, despise tourists who harass the city with their coordinated backpacks and fail to recognise that King’s Parade is actually a road and not a pavement.

There are, naturally, many benefits to living a ten minute cycle from home, but being constantly in the bubble can be claustrophobic. However, I think that there’s too much going on to think about it. At the end of the day, I love Cambridge. It was the best place in the world to grow up, and it’s the best place in the world to go to university.