Meet the Freshers: Cambridge is a Learning Curve

Audrey Sebatindira 23 December 2015

“So, how’s it going?”

The typical 5-week-in question is asked by my parents as they look searchingly into my face. I take a breath and have a think, resisting the urge to launch straight into a typical response gushing with enthusiasm and positivity. The truth is, there’s so much going on here that it hardly feels like I could describe the experience and actually do it any justice. Not to mention the fact that I’ve barely had a moment to sit back and think properly about it. But, as an English student, I suppose I should at least try…

The fact that this week Todd and I have been unable to actually find a time to meet up and write this column may be indicative of just how busy Cambridge life can be (either that, or we just aren’t very organised, which is by no means out of the question). I don’t think anyone would deny just how intense life here can be. It’s invigorating, exhilarating, stimulating…and – especially at 3am in the Taylor Library, or after 2000m of erging – just a little exhausting. But, as I was told in one of my first supervisions; you find a rhythm, settle into new habits – hand in a good (ish) essay one week…and an undeniably rather mediocre one the next.

As a self-confessed over-thinker, I openly admit that I still often wonder “What am I actually doing here?” and “What do I really want to get out of this experience?” The prospect of reaching the end of my degree, minus £27,000+, and still not having found adequate answers is an undeniably daunting thought. Yet, I think I may be beginning to at least glimpse them. Slowly, but surely, I’m finding my feet…I think.

Getting lost because you think you know where you’re going and so you don’t look it up in advance (and thus getting strange looks when you go to Trinity Hall and ask for the Clare Cellars), learning the hard way that sleep deprivation really does inhibit your mental ability (and leads to embarrassing falling-asleep-in-the-library situations – the bean bags in the EFL are just too comfortable, let’s be honest), and deciding on a whim to go to a meeting discussing your writing for the first time with an established editor and poet…that’s all been a part of it. I’m still slightly uncertain as to how I should negotiate a balance between the commonly referred to “Cambridge bubble” and the “real” world. It’s easy to let your essay and lecture schedule become what defines your week, although accepting that Thursday is the new Monday will, I fear, never be natural to me. And yet, some of the most rewarding and stimulating experiences which I’ve had since arriving here have been those where things haven’t necessarily gone to plan, or been what I expected them to be. So I think I would encourage anyone currently sitting hunched over a computer and wondering how they are going to make it through three (or more) years of intense academic study: “do something which scares you.” (Obviously within reason). It’s a cliché, but it’s a good one.