The 24 hours of careless ecstasy following your offer from Cambridge are quickly replaced with apprehension, especially upon the arrival of the dreaded ‘Summer Reading List.’ Firstly, please PLEASE do not rush to Waterstones/Amazon and buy all of them – you won’t manage (nor be expected to) get through the whole thing, and all it will do is waste your money and give you a mini heart-attack every time you look at your desk. Buy one or two at a time and play it by ear- buying as you go is much better than bulk-buying.
Also, be logical: if you are asked to read the Bible for your English Lit degree, don’t attack it with your highlighters and flashcards. You’ll get far more credit being able to briefly allude to a biblical similarity than spending all summer swatting so you can quote verse 3 line 17 of Matthew’s letter to the – ah I don’t even know, didn’t read it did I.
Societies: dos and don’ts
It’s the 3rd day. You’ve been lured to the Fresher’s Fair in Parker’s Piece by a mixture of free Domino’s and the resonant echo of your mum telling you to do make sure you do extra curriculars. Upon entering the tent, you are amazed by the sheer number of things on offer; you expected choir, drama and maybe even cheese and wine societies to be a thing. But tiddlywinks? Heraldry? Hopscotch?! The fantastic thing about Cambridge is the massively varied range of interests: nobody is judged for a passion, so get stuck in and sign up to anything that takes your fancy.
That being said- beware of signing up to societies because you think its jokes: the novelty wears off after the 19th email invitation to play Ultimate Frisbee at 7 in the morning, and the unsubscribe button never seems to work. Strange that.
There is nothing worse than a fresher who has been on a course/ residential, or has an older sibling at Cambridge, and acts as if they run the place on day 2.
“Ohh, you’re in Girton, hahahah see you next term” – “Ye mate well, you know what they say, I’d rather be at Oxford than at Girton, hahaha.”
Chances are, recycling the most clichéd joke in the book on Fresher’s week will not only ensure you will never be friends with that Girtonian (I wonder if anyone ever teased Arianna Huffington), but will also alienate your older years and any other people without a sense of locationary entitlement. Also, chances are that you’ll follow up with “Oh me, I’m at Gonville and Ka-yus actually”, which will just make you look like even more of a knob.
You’ll have heard it before, but University is genuinely the best place to set up a business/fashion brand/app/club night/book club/ anything you might want. This is the last time in your life that you’ll have time (though it may not always seem it), and be in the same place as tens, potentially hundreds, of like-minded people.
Being at Cambridge is even better, its immense wealth and collegiate system meaning that, as long as you are passionate and have a plan, you are likely to receive funding from your college/ relevant department to help you along the way.
Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, two of the most esteemed British comedians in history, started a sketch show at Cambridge. Last year, Strawberries & Creem Festival welcomed 5000 people and Nelly, Kano, Snakehips and Big Narstie to the Cambridgeshire countryside, and idea born from students, some of them Cantabs. Don’t feel as if you are here to work and that’s it- academia is of course important, but use the time and place to pursue your creative interests – you wont regret it.
Do not panic
This sounds obvious, but it is a really important one.
Fresher’s week can be a really strange time: your mates at Leeds and Newcastle are texting you saying how much they adore Uni, your friends at Manchester have already uploaded Fila-laden pictures from Warehouse Project, and your Gap-year friends are in fucking Bali. You spend half the time with EVERYONE, and half the time alone in your room wondering what is going on and if you are missing something.
DO NOT PANIC. Everyone is feeling the same way no matter how much they try to make it seem otherwise, and all the awkwardly forced social situations and handshakes and “What college are you in”s will be gone by week 3. Just go with the flow, go out, meet as many people as possible, and you will be absolutely fine.