Unexpectedly proud to call Cambridge home

Sophie Quinn 9 October 2017

There is a certain shame in being truly in love with your very middle class, slightly elitist university city. I often find myself defending it to my friends from home (“we have the most thriving brunch scene”, “I don’t even know anyone from Eton”). Try as it might, Cambridge is not edgy like Manchester, or vibrant like London, and it took me a little while to start saying words like ‘bop’ and ‘plodge’ without a hint of irony.

Yet, somehow, it has earnt a label of home in my heart. Having moved around a lot growing up and hosting an Airbnb in our house has meant my concept of home is fairly fleeting and fragile, always packing up and moving houses and rooms and cities, but Cambridge fulfilled that distinct notion effortlessly. While I have cumulatively spent just over half a year physically there, comfort and familiarity settled into my bones more easily than any place before.

This feeling was completely unanticipated and certainly seems incongruous when I consider that, in reality, it has been the greatest period of change I have ever experienced in such a short amount of time. Not to mention that I spent a relatively high proportion of my time stressed, anxious or straight up terrified. But perhaps it is precisely because of these formative, new and intense experiences that my bond with this place and the people in it formed so naturally.

It is not necessarily, as one might think, because of the hallowed halls and looming buildings that my sense of wonder remains. It is not the coffee shops or cobble stones themselves that fuel my longing for the city. But it is their image that brings a strong sense of not-quite-nostalgia, reminding me of times spent working, cooking, dancing, crying and essentially growing up in the midst of people who are now the most familiar to me.

To the credit of the college system, this is largely facilitated by the communal accommodation of first years and a particular boarding school vibe that most other university halls miss out on. Being minutes or even seconds away from one’s closest friends and eating, sleeping and working together day after day is bound to foster a sense of togetherness that is undoubtedly conducive to settling in quickly. But I have no doubt that for some, it takes much longer to find the right people and routines to feel comfortable and find solace in the inevitable difficult times. I feel fortunate that my fears of isolation were short-lived. This, undeniably, is because of the people I found here.

This particular feeling of affinity and support, living in a world that does not stretch further than the River Cam, is one I miss each and every time I leave. The ‘bubble’ is a clichéd truth in my experience, but even when it is time for me to roam beyond it, I will always carry that feeling with me.