Cambridge A-Z, Part 1

Coming up to Cambridge in 2013? Make sure you know what awaits you with our Freshers A – Z, Part 1

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Ah, there you are Fresher! We’d been expecting you.

Pop your IKEA carry-all down in the corner for a moment, help yourself to a fizzy pop and come cross your legs on the floor in front of Grandpa.

Now, listen here. When we were Freshers, believe it or not, there was no such glistening Messiah as The Tab Freshers Guide A – Z. Look at this sepia photograph of us at your age: wide-eyed, skinny jeaned and flying blind. We were completely unguided we made every mistake in the book.

We did far too much work; we ballooned on an exclusive diet of Dominos and Brain-Lickers; and we were so naughty that Auntie Betty laid our photo in the hall face down for over a week.

What? A patronizing tone? We just wouldn’t want you to make the same mistakes is all, poppet. Stay put for absolutely everything you need to know about Cambridge.

A is for ADC: Amateur Dramatics Club

Don’t ever make the mistake of underestimating how famous this theatre is, lest you take a Cosmopolitan to the face at the bar. The likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson all trod the hallowed boards of the ADC before they became Gandalf, Dr House and The Weepy One From Love Actually respectively. It’s all student run, so be sure to sign up to the Actors List at the Freshers’ Fair for information on auditions as well as opportunities on other parts of the production team.

The Footlight’s in their 2012 Pantomine: Treasure Island

If you just want to enjoy the shows, tickets can be booked online or via telephone, or you can turn up on the night and try your luck. The ADC theatre usually boasts a weekly main-show (7.45pm) and late (11pm), as well as weekly ‘Smokers’, where the Footlights practice their stand up.

Budding critics can become reviewers for The Tab by emailing [email protected]. For each show you review, you’ll get two free tickets! No prior experience necessary.

B is for Bops, Balls and Blind Date

Funnily enough, there are quite a few ways to enjoy oneself in Cambridge outside of Gender Theory and/or Relativity. Bops refer to college based parties in which you’ll be encouraged to make a toga out of newspaper and slut-drop next to the vending machine whilst your supervisor glimpses you on his or her way to get a mocha. Initial bops will involve sidestepping to Year 3000 – a name and subject sticker on your chest and your lips nervously stuck to your gums – whereas later bops will involve tongue-kissing everyone to Mr Brightside in the name of fraternity.

Balls are like bops: except they last until dawn, are usually over one hundred smackers a ticket and are more selective about their musical palette. These will arrive in the June-based ‘May Week’ and are notorious for their impeccable selection of portaloos.

Just when you thought it was all over after your college marriage (see ‘F for Family’), the charity Blind Date continues the relentless Cambridge matchmaking calendar. Expect your friends to fill in your Blinde Date form for you (painting you bawdier than even E.L. James would dare) before an excruciating hour of explaining to your date that you didn’t actually have sex with your ferret whilst they drunkenly engage in footsy under the table.

C is for Cindies and Churchill PAV                                                            

Even more ways to drink away your crippling lack of self-belief, both of which introduce some of Life’s thorniest questions (see ‘L for Life’ in tomorrow’s instalment). Cindies asks how it’s possible to dance to the ‘Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba’ part of The Circle Of Life without losing the sexy you had got going during Blurred Lines (Answer: it’s not possible. Cut your losses and just pretend to be a giraffe). Churchill PAV, a famously naked Friday bop at the college bearing the same name, asks whether it’s possible to be found passed out in the toilets wearing nothing but a dismantled box of Frosties over your nipples and not lose respect  as a budding academic. Again the answer is negative.

D is for Drinking Societies and Discipline

I mean you no confusion:  these terms are by no means interchangeable. In fact, there is a large amount of evidence to suggest they are quite antithetical. If Cambridge was CBeebies, and your lectures were everything from The Really Wild Show to Mona The Vampire, Drinking Societies would probably be Dennis the Menace. Not only Dennis the Menace, in fact, but an episode of Dennis the Menace that gets jammed in the DVD machine provoking the ‘Oops! We’re Experiencing A Problem’ screen to appear, high pitched electrical wailing, and a visibly ruffled Lizo Mzimba desperately trying to compose himself. Or, at least, that’s how they like to see themselves. See here how Drinking Societies even managed to terrorise end of year exams!

Just like The Church, the holy climax of Drinking Society’s week is Sunday, although their antics begin at the opposite end of the day to those of the freshly ironed trousers and prayer book brigade. The weekly event involves curry snogs, dribble stains on your Chinos, and large waves of homosocial petting – the kind of things you expected J.K. to deliver in the final Harry Potter but didn’t, book much to your eternal disappointment. You will soon realise that being chosen to be in a Drinking Society (invite only, fellas! See ‘I for Initiations’ later on) is synonymous with being really popular, really important and really sexy, and is definitely worth skipping an essay for.

The Mahal: Your Sunday night chapel (read Curry King)

Discipline is what will happen to you if, one fine Sunday eve, you get over excited and expose yourself to a Librarian. It will take the form of you having to put on your gown, stride to the Dean’s office amid the cheers of your classmates (you naughty Grange Hill stud you!) and get told exactly what you did, which toilet floor you will be scrubbing for the next month, and why you have no right of appeal.

So forget ever making a 9am lecture on Monday mornings, grab a blazer and become Lindsay Lohan in that scene where her on-screen mother shrieks “but you love Ladysmith Black Mambazo!” Besides, the Dean would like to speak to you about that mankini you left on that wet patch in the library.

E is for Essays, Exams and Easter Term

First year doesn’t count for anything, but we’ll forgive you for feeling like it does. We all remember our first supervision: the breathless horror of the initial title provoking a rather vicious case of IBS for over a week before, at last, your supervisor’s lukewarm “quite good” inspired you to call everyone in your phonebook and declare your neon-lit future as an academic. Three years down the line and a supervisor is lucky if they receive any more than a bedraggled rag of Wikipedia plagiarism with a subtle scent of feet.

Easter Term means exams, which also means that you’ll inevitably feel like the world is coming to its end. Take it upon yourself to read a Paul McKenna self-help guide and create a playlist full of enough Aretha Franklin to get you out of bed in the morning. Easter term however also means Caesarean Sunday – this will involve streaking across Jesus Green in a Fireman’s hat whilst the Daily Mail take photos of you from behind a bush – and Suicide Sunday, where everyone celebrates having not killed themselves with Sainsbury’s Basic alcohol.

F is for (College) Family

As you’ll probably already be aware, Cambridge has organized an entire college family for you. This is something to be taken very seriously. Your college mom and college dad will be eager to make up for eighteen years of missed Christmases and Birthdays, and will probably exorcize their guilt by plying you with a wave of Vod-bull and Spagetti Bolognaise; it’s the stuff of Jacqueline Wilson’s wet dreams. You’ll be shown photos of your college Grandma on her year abroad in Marbella, be told to play nicely with your college sister, and your College Mom will tut when mentioning Uncle Thomas who was disowned for suspected college incest. You will soon realise that you have a family name to continue, so bag yourself a spouse early on to avoid disappointment. Throw yourself down on bended knee with a single red rose by all means, but expect to have to ask her college dad first.

G is for Girton and Gardies

Girton has for so long been the butt of all distance-based jokes that for me to even attempt one would be cliché-suicide. Just know that it is the butt of all distance-based jokes and that to attempt one is cliché-suicide. Unless you’re doing it ironically, as I kind of am, in which case many congratulations to me and aren’t I just brilliant.

Gardies is on the same road as McDonald’s but will batter your sausage in ways that make Supersize Me look like a fad diet. If you’re famous enough, Vas the owner will take a photo of you and put you on the wall. Take your parents there when they come to pick you up; after months of worrying whether those years of playing World Of Warcraft in your underpants had left you socially stunted – they deserve to know you’re finally a hit.

The Gardies Wall of Fame

H is for Hall

Hall is what all your friends at other universities think you do all the time at Cambridge. It will involve you donning a gown and adorning your feet with something slightly more comprehensive than Crocs. It will also involve a whiff of the ancient (oil paintings, oak, Latin graces) combined unapologetically with a whiff of the slightly out-of-date (Coq au Vin, Black Forest gateau, Kylie Minogue mewling faintly from the kitchen radio). Embrace all of the above contradictions and come here to celebrate Birthdays, essay completions and deflowerings. Don’t forget, of course, to take photos of the candles and that portrait of Henry VIII and to tell all of your friends that there were owls too, only that the flash kept scaring them off. If someone asks you where you stand on post-structuralism at hall – inevitability if you’re unlucky enough to be sharing your cheese board with a professor – remain calm and pretend to choke on your Red Leicester.

Return Tomorrow For The Second Instalment Of Our Fresher’s A – Z.