The calm after the storm: Your last day at Cambridge

Chase Smith 24 March 2015

You’re finally there. You’ve sent off your last essay, bid a tearful goodbye to your DoS and slammed your folders shut. From frantic all-nighters and mounting piles of washing up, there emerges a new form of college routine — one quite alien to the caffeine-powered zombie that you were only a matter of days ago. Assuming that your supervisor doesn’t spring any Friday night supervisions on you (which I am assured by Natscis can indeed happen) then you are presented with the rare opportunity of time off at Cambridge; several days are made available in which all the things that your degree inconveniently prevented are made possible. After taking the mandatory sixteen-hour nap, you’re able to live the life you dreamed of during week five, punting down the Cam and hitting Cindies without a trace of regret, aside from the usual guilt at secretly enjoying the dreadful music.

However, just like our terms, this time of relaxation is short-lived. All too soon that empty suitcase begins to seem just as threatening as a blank word document and you realise that it’s time to wave goodbye to the Cambridge bubble once again. From this point on follows one of the great unspoken mysteries of Cambridge: what to do next? Partying is winding down and people’s minds are drifting towards their respective travel arrangements and the prospect of seeing familiar faces at home. But what are we to do once the zip has finally been forced shut on our suitcases? If you’re anything like me then revision is out of the question (it’s called Easter revision for a reason!) and you have recoiled from the touch of a pen since your last submission of work. But as you find yourself scrubbing that last bit of paint out of the sink from a day at Holi, you fancy you see a tumbleweed rolling past your door. Cambridge without the air of manic urgency is a bewildering place.

As the lucky few wait for their family to struggle down the motorway to get them, others are staring anxiously at the clock, determined not to miss the train they’d only remembered to book on Thursday. For most, this means a day of strange meandering, remaining unsure of how to fill the time. Relaxing in your room is unthinkable with the prospect of a month long vacation looming, and yet you’re faced with the problem of being unable to stay with your friends for more than a few hours at a time. There are the obvious restrictions of last minute packing crises and the unexpected disappearance of that person in your block you didn’t realise was leaving a day early, but also the fear of intruding on other people’s time and failing to say goodbye to everybody. Admittedly this results in some memorable events, such as emotional farewells being awkwardly repeated in the laundry room less than twenty minutes after they were first made, or attempts to pack friends belongings into the storage above their beds without the aid of a ladder.

The annoying singing from down the corridor is gone. But as you drag your suitcase down yet another flight of stairs, you realize you miss it a bit more than you’d like to admit.