Cambridge according to international students
You’re not the only ones
The Cambridge experience is already pretty weird just coming from London, but what’s it like moving from another continent?
I spoke to a few international students about what they love about Cambridge, what they miss about home, and the weirdest things they’ve seen since coming to uni…
“There’s so much slang in England.”, Clifton, a Land Ec from Singapore tells me. “My friends have been really helpful teaching me stuff like ‘banter’ and ‘twat’. Oh and of course ‘chunder'”.
Californian Ben agrees. “I’ve had to start saying trousers and football now, and calling my friends ‘mates'”.
Opinion on the people seems to depend on where you’re from. Mina and Diane, from Zurich and Paris respectively, claim Cambridge is a lot friendlier than back home.
“In Zurich people don’t even look at you at passport control” – it seems Swiss introverted awkwardness takes priority over airport security measures – “but they’re always so friendly in London. I love talking to the security people here!”
Diane agrees that French people tend to be less open and (her words, not mine) slightly ruder. Clifton loves everyone in Cambridge, except grouchy old ladies.
However, compared to America Ben thinks English people are much more introverted. “They’re much less direct, less in your face. They’re more polite I think. I prefer it.”
I guess there’s a scale of awkwardness with Switzerland up there at the top, and America at the bottom just not giving a shit…
And what about alcohol, given it is such an integral part of our English educational experience?
“People drink way more here”, says Diane, “Your friends don’t pressure you to drink as much in France”.
Ben’s just happy he can legally drink here. “In America you have to drink whatever you can get your hands on, so generally it’s really cheap, disgusting beer. Here you can choose whatever you want. It’s still binge drinking like back home, but classier.”
Clifton likes how much we go out in Cambridge (a dead give away that he hasn’t lived anywhere else in England before). “People in Singapore work far too much. Students here get the work/fun balance right”.
Mina is more aware about the reality of Cambridge clubbing. “It’s not great but if you’re drunk enough you’re all good. And eventually you forget that the nightlife can be a lot better. I like going down to London, but at the same time it reminds how bad the clubs are here. But people do go out a lot more, and it’s a lot lot cheaper than Switzerland so I don’t mind really.”
Is there anything they would like to change if they could? Mina misses skiing. Not sure there’s much we can do about that. Diane of course misses baguette (I may have asked her to say that to add to her caricature of Frenchness…)
Ben sometimes wants a little less responsibility. “I love being treated like an adult, but in America so much more is planned for you at university. I sometimes wish Cambridge didn’t expect us to do so much for ourselves.”
Clifton’s main problem seems to be with our use of cutlery.
“You use spoons in weird ways. Like you use it for rice when you don’t need it, but don’t use it to eat peas? And why do you use a knife and fork for food that you eat with your hands? I see people cutting up pizza rather than having slices. And last week my friend ate a burrito with a knife and fork. What’s that about?”.
Some restaurants here are also disappointing: “Chinese food here sucks, but it doesn’t matter because I like potatoes too and you do those well.”
So, overall international students are enjoying themselves. Well done Cambridge. Keep teaching them synonyms for vomiting and being drunk, and stop excessively using your cutlery and we’ll have them coming from overseas for years to come.