Johnathan Zemlik

The Tab’s very own fresher columnist JOHNATHAN ZEMLIK talks about what we’ve all got in common: a feeling of inadequacy.

Before I arrived, I thought Cambridge would be full of Dukes and millionaires quaffing champagne and laughing at my Northern accent. I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t fit in.

But after Freshers’ Week drinks in the master’s lodge, the fears and assumptions that had been occupying my mind over the last few months began to subside as I discovered everyone was pleasant and normal. Or at least as normal as you can be in Cambridge. Let’s face it: if you come up (or down) to Cambridge, you’re obviously not a run of the mill person.

In fact, the only things that unify everyone here are our academic prowess and the lingering doubt that we’re not good enough to be here.

After all the hard work and grief it took to get here, the last thing I felt before climbing into the Landover for the journey down was a feeling of total inadequacy.

When I arrived, the excitement of meeting new people and the pace of the first day shielded me from my doubt. But as I lay awake in the early hours of Monday morning after a booze and sweat bonanza at Cindies and Fez, my doubt resurfaced. I thought of all my friends who had failed to get a place and wondered what the difference was between them and me. As far as I could see, there was none.

And so I took a gamble, and the next day I asked one of the other people on my course about it. He too declared his lingering doubts about his position here. And the more people I talked to, the more I heard the same thing. Solidarity is a sweet medicine.

Although people may act like they know what they’re doing, most don’t. When I meet the stereotypical public school educated southerner from the likes of Westminster and Charterhouse I’m pleasantly surprised to realise they are actually just like me. We share similar experiences, aspirations and interests, and above all, we all feel we shouldn’t be here.

But I can’t help but wonder: if I was smart enough to get into Cambridge, why wasn’t I smart enough to realise the stereotypes are absolute rubbish?

University of Cambridge