Cambridge A-Z, Part 1

Literally everything you need to know as a Fresher coming to Cambridge in 2014.

A-Z Cambridge charlotte ivers colleges Freshers Guide patrick brooks

This is for you, Fresher. (Fuck off, 2nd and 3rd years, go cry into the half-baked afterbirth of your dissertation or something). 

You’re sitting there at your computer screen, the smell of homemade banoffee pie wafting from the kitchen of your terraced suburban abode, bored to high hell of scrolling through Facebook looking at pictures of all your friends in Bristol and Warwick and York having an amazing time whilst you’re wishing you could just get started.

But you’re also terrified. You’re terrified of taking that great caterwauling leap into the Unknown morass of living away from home and family, moving on from school, leaving all your friends, having Life Really Start, and coming to the unreal apex of your teenaged wet dreams, the gleaming postcard spires of Cambridge University.

This guide isn’t going to help, much. But it might give you the edge, the push to get your through by the skin of your little fresher teeth so that you too can survive to become a second year and take on the mantle of being sickeningly patronizing.

So let’s get to it, in arbitrarily alphabetical order:

A is for Anti-climax and the ADC

Cambridge is actually a bit meh, a lot of the time. The novelty of a lot of the cool stuff wears off real quick, and the day to day grind of lectures and getting drunk in the same holes and people still being twats even though they’re meant to be clever, plus the realization that pretty buildings look pretty but that’s about it, does mean that these won’t necessarily or instantly feel like the best years of your life.

In fact, the worst thing you can do is have unrealistically high expectations. Go in knowing that your first term might be shit and it might take a while to find your actual friends, and you’ll have a much better time.


The theatre scene here is the largest in the country (probably) with like five plays a week every single week. People take theatre really really fucking seriously, and the ADC crowd is as incestuously toxic as it is creatively stimulating and exciting.

The ADC is the large student-run theatre, and it’s also where the Footlights are still churning out little future Mitchell and Webbs. Anyone can audition for their fun and fortnightly smokers.

B is for Bops and Blues

Take a glorified primary school disco, add the JCR president’s Spotify playlist, some hastily painted cardboard fancy dress, and repeatedly snogging people you shouldn’t, and you’ll probably get something close to a college Bop.

Most infamous of the Bops is Churchill’s PAV. Do not go there, even out of morbid curiosity. There are some things best left undiscovered, and this fortnightly abyss of yowling, half-naked compscis is one of them.

Two people having a great time at a bop

Blues are prize type things people get if they’re really good at running or running with a ball. Girls with a penchant for Blues players are sometimes fondly referred to as Blue-tack.

C is for Cindies and Caesarian Sunday

Cindies is by far and inexplicably the most popular club.

Somehow, its limited range of classics from Mr Brightside to S Club 7 to The Circle of Life from The Lion King (we shit you not) has cultivated a bizarre, almost religious adoration amongst the majority of the student population, perhaps originally stemming from a kind of ironic devotion to the anti-cool but now sickeningly twisted and out of control.

It’s easiest to not fight it and just go with the crowd.

This is as exciting as Cambridge nightlife gets

Caesarian Sunday happens on the last Sunday before the start of exam season. In essence, it’s a massive piss-up in a park.

Thousands of students sit around getting absolutely hammered, and it’s great fun, especially because the Daily Mail is always there to take pictures and fabricate hilariously false tales of orgiastic violence and debauchery in the next day’s paper.

D is for Drinking

Why do Cambridge students drink? To cope with the workload? To cope with each other’s company? To cope with normal social interaction? To cope with their own crushing sense of inadequacy?

Obviously none of the above. It’s just that the wine in the Curry King tastes really great.


All hail the King

E is for Exams

Which are a bitch. But also really not the end of the world. Like, seriously, chill the fuck out.

This isn’t like school. You aren’t going to be able to waltz into the end of year exam knowing the whole syllabus. Other people are often going to be better than you. Your supervisor will occasionally inform you that your essay reads like it was written by a concussed baboon.

The sooner you accept all of this, and accept it hard, the happier you will be.

This will be you

F is for Fez

Fez is the home of the artsy hipster crowd, and it has objectively better music than any other club.

That said, it’s a lot pricier and sometimes quite empty, because the artsy hipster crew isn’t quite large enough to sustain itself away from the mainstream and often ends up being sucked into the whirlpool vortex of possibly ironic anti-cool that is Cindies.

G is for Gardies

Gardies is a late night fast food joint who will take a photo of you and your friends if you’re really drunk and put it up on their Wall of Shame.

A bit like Facebook, but with cheesy chips.

A 3am haven

H is for Hill Colleges

Hill colleges are a bit ugly, a bit far away, and take a lot of people from the pool.

This makes it deeply amusing to make jokes about their shitness, giving all their residents inferiority complexes that they will not shake until their mid-fifties with the help of several thousand pounds’ worth of therapy.

It’s sort of like classism, but socially acceptable.

This is Fitz, easily the nicest of the Hill Colleges

I is for Initiations and Irony

In the absence of any good clubbing, what Cambridge has become very good at is creating alternative systems of structured drinking and/or fun.

This mainly originates from drinking societies, which are in essence just a group of single-sex friends who like to drink together with archaic rituals and also wear identical blazers and ties, but who treat themselves very seriously and have elaborate, suck-a-cream-drenched-whelk-off-this-willing-girl’s-chest initiations.

They have names like the Vikings, the Bulldogs, the Slags and the Harlots. Ah, gender equality.

Male drinking societies and female drinking societies often organise joint meals called Swaps, whereby they all rock up to a curry place in ‘Sluts and Lobsters’ themed fancy dress, get rambunctiously hammered on cheap wine and then presumably attempt to mate, but more often just end up chundering all over the table and each other.

Even those not in drinking societies go on swaps, which are often organised more casually between people of different colleges, or between societies, and can be a lot of fun and a brutally easy way to meet new, very drunk people.

Why? Just why?

Irony: nearly everything in Cambridge seems to dance on the borderline of being self aware and meta, such that you can never quite work out if it is supposed to be ironic of not. We can’t really explain this, to be honest.

Keeping up so far? Come back tomorrow for Part 2, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.