A letter to my Fresher self

Things get messy

advice cambridge fresher Fresher history student letter letter to myself maddy austin

Dearest Fresher self,

You’ve had a wild ride getting to Cambridge and now you’re here. Well done. You’re great. But get ready for the most intense period of your life thus far.

At the moment you’re in a relationship with a man with a fondness for plants. This will not last. But, do not fear, there is an abundance of eligible bachelors right at your fingertips. Far more significantly, you have a lot of growing to do as a person. It’s important to remember the following as the year ensues:

First of all, stop worrying about work. You get massively stressed about pretty much everything. You’re worried about the wrong things. Be worried that your boyfriend spends more time thinking about hydrangeas than any other single topic. The work is difficult but you will adapt and be fine. Why cry so much when you could just get into drugs? Jokes. Accept you have a lot of work and schedule it around stuff. It will be ok.

Hellooo-drangeas. Can we really blame him?

Secondly, try not to let ‘imposter syndrome’ get the better of you. After starting at Cambridge it’s normal to question why you were picked. This feeling doesn’t ever fully leave but ultimately you were chosen for a reason (being born into fortunate socio-economic circumstances helps but it’s also because you’re good at your subject and care about it). Having had a turbulent, emotionally traumatic first relationship, you know what it’s like to be put down. You were told it was unrealistic even to try for Cambridge in that relationship. Do not let yourself think you aren’t worthy of your place here. You are worth a lot. Maybe even £10. Jokes.

Well I for one know who the real imposter is…

Good nights aren’t measured by how many people you manage to pull. This can be fun, but making memories with your college nearest and dearest is more fun. Chances are you will not be fondly reflecting on that time you shared with a guy at Cindies you saved in your phone as ‘Ed Cindies’. As informative as that relationship was. How are you supposed to share humorous experiences if you’re too busy scouting the town? You don’t have to answer right now, you’re probably googling the words of your essay title, poor lamb.

When applying to Cambridge you were told that college is a ‘close’ environment and people are ‘close’ within it. This is true: partly because everyone’s sleeping together and partly because you live with these people over very intense 8-week periods. At a different University you could’ve spent all day with these people. Here, you cannot. Instead, bonding occurs through organised events and short bursts of talking about how stressed you are over obscene amounts of tea.

Spot the T pot

In this environment maintaining some sense of balance is key. It’s very likely you won’t make lectures if you wake up hungover. If you wake up slightly drunk it’s far more likely you will make them. Play the odds. Don’t go to supervisions drunk though, or maybe just once…

Balance also applies to diet. Most eating needs will be taken care of in hall via carbohydrate. Who said wedges don’t go with jacket potato? Not hall. When eating elsewhere maybe throw in some fruit and veg as this will reduce the severity of inevitable ‘Freshers Flu’. A Veggie Volcano can be classed as a legitimate contribution towards your five a day or seven a day or whatever the current standard is. Meet unhealthy with healthy. Meet a dark, cold winter morning with a tipsy disposition.

It could be fun

Finally, as any good Historian will tell you, events are not a linear sequence reflecting continuous ‘progress’. This morning I was staring into the depths of a toilet on the verge of throwing up. There will definitely be slip-ups, set backs and a few dodgy supervisions during which you should probably position yourself as close to the door as possible. But at the end of the day or, indeed, at the beginning, as it turned out, you will realise your low points are simultaneously very fortunate points. There are loads of things to be grateful for here. Gushgushgush. Still, with all the difficulties Cambridge brings, it offers so much at the same time e.g. a helpful friend to hold your hair back, a supervisor to talk you through your work, a chair right by the door.

This is so much more than a chair

Some of this advice is unorthodox but still valuable. I’m sure it will help you to navigate Freshers in the strange and tiny city we like to call Cambridge.

Love from second year you x