College Swap: Newnham VS Robinson

HENRIK WETTER-SÁNCHEZ becomes a honorary girl for the evening while TILDA MALLINSON explores a red brick fortress.

Cindies college swap Henrik Wetter-Sánchez life swap Newnham Robinson tilda mallinson

HENRIK WETTER-SÁNCHEZ swaps from Robinson to Newnham

The resemblance is uncanny

The resemblance is uncanny

What were you expecting?

Where to start? A haven of raging feminists, a boarding school style troop of girls in pyjamas having pillow fights, Mean Girls-style gossiping. Newnham’s reputation preceded it and I had willingly volunteered to throw myself into this emotionally-charged pit for a night. What on earth had I let myself in for?

What were Tilda’s friends like?

Of the girls on the list that Tilda had given me of my friends for the night, I met ‘go-to girl’ Clara, ‘small, brunette’ Hannah, ‘brunette’ Gabrielle and ‘blonde(ish)’ Kate. They were extremely friendly and accommodating and had no problem spending an evening with a total stranger. Clara and I enjoyed a great DMC while Hannah and Gabrielle truly came alive on the Cindies dance floor. But who couldn’t when a dubstep remix of the Circle of Life comes on?

How was the Food at Newnham?

Is any canteen food in the university honestly any good? Formal Hall maybe, but the combination of ‘canteen’ and ‘food’ inevitably leads to less than desirable results. In the same vein as an answer to the question: “What is the least worst club in Cambridge?” Nevertheless, the fried calamari with sautéed potatoes went down pretty well.

What was the weirdest thing that happened to you?

Newnham has a particularly clever self-locking door system which means you have to take your card with you when you leave your room for even a second. When I woke up in the morning, I stumbled off to the shower in my boxers and towel and, after an underwhelming shower experience, my heart sank when I realised my door card was nowhere to be seen. Can you imagine walking half-naked through Newnham to the porters lodge where you have to explain that the reason for your severely out-of-place state of undress is that you are ‘swapping lives’ with a girl who is currently in Robinson and that you need a key to get into her room? Again I emphasise the half-nakedness. I am sad to report that the situation was not resolved and I was politely asked to leave before “I caused any more disruption to the harmonious environment integral to women’s life at Newnham”.

How was her room?

Pretty typical girl’s room: furry throw rug on the bed, BFF photos on the walls, impeccably tidy and most notably it actually smelled nice. All in all a very cosy home away from home. However, one undesirable feature was probably the window that faced directly into another girl’s room. I think it’s fair to say that the postgraduate inhabiting it was not best pleased when I, boxer-clad, threw open the curtains in the morning only to find myself face-to-face with her bewildered expression as she looked up from her essay. I’d say I brightened her day. She probably wouldn’t.

What were the best things at Newnham?

The people. I really appreciated how friendly and game for anything the girls I met were.

What is the worst thing about Newnham?

As a guy, probably constantly feeling like you have some kind of physical deformity as you walk around. In the canteen, as I walked to a table at the end of the room I could feel dozens of eyes casting furtive glances in my direction, quickly followed by looks down at empty plates of food as soon as I smiled amicably back. I kept checking my trousers to see if maybe my flies were undone or my back to see if someone had stuck some phallic post-it note there, but no, I was just male.

How would you rate Newnham out of 5 stars? 


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

Well they took me to Cindies so 5/5.

Final Thoughts:

I decided that the only thing to do if I was swapping lives with a girl from an all-girls college was to become ‘one of the girls’ for the night. This did not quite involve me dressing up as a woman but I did suffer the ignominy of ordering a strawberry daiquiri at the Maypole. I even met ‘my’ admirer (who was extremely confused and quite disappointed by the sudden transformation of the woman of his dreams) and even got preyed on by creepy guys in Cindies.

(Sniff sniff) "Doesn't smell like Tilda"

(Sniff sniff) “Doesn’t smell like Tilda”

Other than leaving in slight disgrace it was a relatively normal college experience. I may have come armed with an array of harsh stereotypes but none of the girls I spent time with lived up to any of them. I had a great girl’s night out, sadly I just don’t think the porters are too keen on me returning anytime soon, clothed or otherwise. Their loss.

TILDA MALLINSON swaps from Newnham to Robinson

What were you expecting?

Having spent the last seven years at an all-girls boarding school, and facing a further three at Newnham, I really didn’t know what to expect from life out there in the real world. This was the kind of stuff I had only read about, but I figured, what is uni for? Letting your hair down, going a little wild. Maybe this was the perfect opportunity to see a world in which men are allowed to wander freely, to live life among the apes.

What were Henrik’s friends like?

Very accommodating. I mean it was difficult for me, and at times, I couldn’t quite handle the banter. See, everyone was teasing this one guy about a gash on his leg he’d acquired by cycling like a loony, to which his retort was, ‘You are what you eat.’ What does it all mean?! I was a little lost in translation, but they helped me through.

How was the food at Robinson?

I was told that Robinson had some Michelin star chef, an award winning catering service. See for yourselves. Not poisonous, but nothing to brag about. And the sweetcorn was really chewy. It also cost me £5.17 so next time I’ll definitely be taking up Henrik’s offer to use his charge card.

Don’t worry I stopped off at Gardies on the way home.

What was the weirdest thing that happened to you?

I met someone from the North.

The cleaner also walked in on me changing. It was all very racy.

How was his room?

Unnervingly tidy, far tidier than the average room at the convent. Then there were the clear tell-tale signs that I was in the room of a gap year-er, the most obvious being a beard trimming chart and some South American flag. But he had his own bath so no complaints.

What was the best thing about Robinson?

A boy spoke to me. And not just one. Five, five boys spoke directly to me.

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That’s actually a Robinson girl, but I swear it happened.

What was the worst thing about Robinson?

Probably the kitchens; if you wanted to cook you’d have to do it one at a time and then eat in the corridor. Definitely not a scratch on Newnham’s facilities.

How would you rate Robinson out of five stars?

I’d say 4.5 but that’s because it was dark when I arrived. It was light when I left, which means I actually saw the place. 3.5 at a push.

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

Err they were male so 5.

Final Thoughts:

On the whole an enlightening cultural experience. I was thrown from my quiet little life at Newnham into the loud and laddish world of man. It was transformative – I even left the toilet seat up.

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A capital offence at Newnham.