College Swap

IZI GOODER and CHARLIE DOWELL risk all and swap lives for one night in The Tab’s first College Swap

Astro-turf panther cactus college swap fish food life swap Pembroke plant st johns

Our brave reporters swap colleges for one night, in order to compare. A Fresher from Pembroke swaps keys with a second year at Johns. The results are chaotic and involve Astro-Turf Panthers, Mince-Pie Costumes and spooning.


Izi Gooder Swaps from Pembroke to St Johns


Fooling No One


What were you expecting?

A chance to step into a new skin after 8 weeks of developing  a cynical Pembroke hauteur. To be a lad for just one night. It would be a true test of the Cambridge mantra  ‘I’d rather be at Oxford than St John’s’.

What were Charlie’s friends like?

In one word: shit. Having received a comprehensive list of ‘friends’ with accompanying tagline eg. “Jack: top lad and replies to texts promptly.” I texted the same thing to each of the six numbers: “Hi Charlie has a whole new persona just for tonight. It’s a bit rounder and blonder but needs a friend for the evening. Are you around at all for a dinner or a drink? x”. Friendly and fun methought … but I only received one reply!

It was my neighbour for the next 12 hours, Jonny. “Unfortunately” he had supervisions that evening “(second year medic=shit), but he would be around the house later – making a mince pie costume. He was the only friend of Charlie’s I ever met. At 3am when I got back to the house, about which more later, Jonny was true to his word there, still making his mince pie costume. He had hardly finished the pastry top, not to mention the foil casing. I kept him company and he regaled me with embarrassing stories about Charlie’s love life and his three double-barrelled-surname-college-children.


Johns’ Students Clearly Take Their Costumes Very Seriously


How was the Food at John’s?

As ‘Charlie No Mates’ I braved the buttery by myself. The loss of self control when unobserved by known friends: enemies overwhelmed me. I trayed up a trencherman’s platter of salmon, roasted vegetables, fried potato balls, swede mash, courgettes, a banana and a packet of crisps (I am after all life swapping with un homme) then cooly handed the cashier Charlie’s card.

A recent brief unhappy dalliance with someone in John’s brought on a fear of being spotted by him, munching solo. To dissolve the stalker image I jumped on a fresher I had met once before and enjoyed a frankly excellent supper.



How was the Room?

When Charlie showed me into his room that morning he proudly divulged that it was the cheapest room in John’s. Forget double beds, ensuite bathrooms, jacuzzis, 24 hour room service and televisions. I found myself in a tropically heated cupboard with a neat 70’s avocado bathroom suite shared with four other people. I queued  for 20 minutes for the loo.  Charlie’s one rule was that I was not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to step on the rug on the floor with shoes on. Indeed, when he showed me into his room he leapt over it with the agility of one who has done it many times before. It was his great-grandfather’s pre-war St John’s rug. The problem was that this rug took up the whole floor. I cowered on the bed for fear of invoking his angry ancestors.

What was the weirdest thing that happened to you?

A fresher called Kate took pity on me and invited me into her room for a glass of wine. I was an unashamed girl. We were having a glorious time trying on clothes and makeup, listening to Ella Fitzgerald on her record player and getting pissed when a friend from my primary school walked in. Eight years on and I had no idea he was at Cambridge. He has since come out – I seemed to be doing a better job of going in-troverted. We spooned and caught up. Alcohol great leveller of all issues seemed the elixir required. The room slowly filled up with people as I got merrier and merrier.  Through the happy hazy cloud over my vision I spotted one boy proudly exhibiting his brand new tattoos and Brazilian wax! He had a FBT of his birthday in Roman numerals and two swallows angled toward his crown jewels. When I questioned him about this explained that “birds fly south”. Duh.

What were the best things at St Johns?

The freshers. (Big shout out to Cripps Court. Thank you for saving me from an evening alone in the bar, where I would have got steadily more drunk and more forward and probably forgotten where I lived and ended up falling off the Bridge of Sighs towards a watery grave).

What is the worst thing about St Johns?

The second years. I don’t care if you are bigger than me, I am very disappointed by your behaviour.

How would you rate St Johns out of 5 stars?

3/10 for its expensive bar, crappy accommodation and rude second years. (Apparently Wednesday is THE night for John’s and it definitely has potential if you’re thinking of trying the same thing).

What rating would you give the other person’s friend(s)?

Jonny gets 5 stars for his extraordinary good looks and warm nature. Cheers buddy. Nice normal end to a pretty surreal evening. So at least I made one friend out of this weird experience.

Final Thoughts:

Charlie had been trusting enough to give me  his laptop password but I was too stupid to realize the glorious potential of this access until the eleventh hour late for a tutorial So I dashed off “ST JOHN’S SUX LADZ.  I’M NEVER COMING BACK. PEMBROKE TIL I DIE!!!!!”. Not incredibly proud but I felt it rounded off those bizarre 12 hours quite neatly.Until I got back to my room and found an enormous penis in my room and hundreds of tiny origami creatures. To top things off my astro-turf panther has gone MIA. That made my status feel very silly. Well played Charlie K. Dowell.



Charlie Dowell swaps from St Johns to Pembroke

What were you expecting?

To be honest, being a sarcky, depressed second year I was looking for a bit of freshers’ relief: I was hoping for accommodation better than my grotty little room, fit friends who’d find me funny and a boost of first year optimism. What I was expecting however, was depressingly nice facilities that don’t smell like the inside of a dog’s ear, awkward chats with her friends where I start telling them the details of my operation last summer and a long stay in the Pembroke library. Anyway this was going to be a break from the usual monotony of work, sleep, tinder, backgammon, tinder.

How were the other person’s friends?

Her friends seemed pretty decent. Firstly they liked my jokes: the odd blunt insult and snide observation was all I needed to have them eating out of the palm of my hand (or so I thought). Of note was saying “cancer is banter” on their smoking what’s app group (they loved it). Secondly they were all pretty interesting and attractive. This opinion may have been formed from speaking to them in the dark after a particularly boring library shesh, however them being able to make me listen to a conversation about Made in Chelsea, and not want to club myself in the groin with a polo mallet, is to be commended.

How was the Food at Pembroke?

Ok. The food was on the whole not as good as John’s. People have told me that it was going to be good, but look, comparing the Pembroke food to our buttery is like comparing masturbation to sex. That having been said, the chocolate brownie I had was on a par with a fleshlight.

How was the Room?

In one word exotic: it had a panther and ethnic scatter cushions. Every room from now on should have an astroturf panther. It’s a great coat stand, interesting talking point and an abrasive surface for cleaning dead skin off your back (Izi I didn’t do that by the way)

Astro Turf Panther Selfie


What is the weirdest thing that happened during your stay?

Staying up ‘till one in her room with two of her friends making origami frogs, a post-it note penis and persuading one of them to get tinder (result).

What was the best thing about Pembroke?

It’s garden feel. Being a budding plant scientist (love the pun) I can’t help but be around those green mushy things. The hedging and shrubbery were pristine and are also notable al fresco bonking points.

Izi’s Personal Plant Collection Was Also Impressive

Worst thing about the other college?

It’s not John’s. Ok I am a twat, but no river and no Cripps court made it a little disappointing.

What rating would you give the other college?

3.5 stars

What rating would you give the other person’s friends?

4.5 stars

Final Thoughts:

I was somewhat sad to return the keys back to Izi in the morning. I had had a good time, her friends were good fun and returning to my real room I realised it smelt like the inside of a dog’s ear. To conclude this life swap I would say I wish I was a fresher again, but with the experience of second year.