Tab Tries: College swapping (Part 1)
Seeing how the other side live…
Right in the midst of exam term, it of course makes perfect sense to slack off yet another day of revision to spend a day in the life of a fellow Cantab at another college.
In the name of investigative journalism (not procrastination I swear), I left my beloved Fitz for the hallowed halls of Magdalene to swap lives with the wonderful Caitlin McCartney for the day. Being me, I didn’t make it out of my tiny Fitz bed until about midday, having drowned my sorrows at my awful exam performance the night before.
Away I went, obnoxiously rapping along to the new Chance The Rapper mixtape whilst avoiding dirty looks from the bus drivers on Castle Street. Oh, how refreshing it was to cycle downhill for once: this day was already bound to be great, right?
Upon arriving at Magdalene, I was immediately struck by how much prettier it was than Fitz. I do love my college, but it’s rather difficult to shake off its ’60s prison vibe. After figuring out where the hell Caitlin’s room was, I was shocked by how much nicer the rooms are here. It confirmed my suspicion that Fitz might just have the worst accommodation in the whole of Cambridge.
I took to jumping on her double bed, increasingly more jealous of the cushy life that she was living. After getting out of breath within about five minutes, it was then a question of making friends. Unfortunately, the place was pretty dead, so I set off on a wild goose chase. Literally.
Apparently, two geese crashed into one of the windows recently. With that in mind, I didn’t want to tempt fate, so I ran away. After my brief encounter with death, I spent some time observing punters on the river. How more drunk Magdaleners don’t fall in is beyond me, as there’s no fence.
Speaking of drunk Magdalites, I also got well acquainted with the bannisters in each staircase. Legend has it that they were made to have slightly different designs so that inebriated men could feel their way to the right one in the dark. It’s all nonsense to me, but the bannisters were very tactile and smooth to the touch.
Clearly being alone in a foreign college had already got to me. I needed to make friends. Fast. Unfortunately, despite my natural charisma, most of the people I encountered were probably wondering who that weird brown boy was that was lurking around college.
Eventually, I came to the realisation that everyone was probably in the library. It was exam term after all. I fantasised about finding my intellectual soulmate, our eyes meeting as we both reached for the same edition of The Bell Jar, American Psycho or some other such tome reflecting my current state of mind. Alas, not only does Magdalene library look much more monolithic than our admittedly quite nice (from what I hear) Olisa Library at Fitz, but everyone had their heads down, working as I should’ve been doing.
My quest to fit into the Magdalene life had so far been unsuccessful. I returned to Caitlin’s room more despondent than ever. I just couldn’t hack it anymore. It was time to break the rules and call in for reinforcements.
Even after summoning my minions to rescue me and trying and failing to crash formal, they eventually had to leave, leaving me alone once again in this foreign land. Perhaps choosing the weekend before exams to college swap for the day wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. But it did leave me thinking about the college system as a whole.
When we apply to Cambridge, most of us don’t realise just how much the college you end up in will shape the course of your Cambridge experience. Some make their choice based on the college’s academic reputation, others go for the architecture or its proximity to Sainsbury’s. I arbitrarily chose Fitz just because Nick Drake (deceased 70s folk singer, not the rapper) did. If I’d known that I’d be atop a hill, miles away in Cambridge terms, maybe I’d have chosen differently.
But after nearly three terms here, it took living in a college a couple of minutes down the road to make me realise that I really missed it. I missed my friends. I missed my shit room. I missed my teddy bear Budley. I sprawled out on Caitlin’s double bed, dreaming of home.
The next morning, I hurried off as soon as I could. I didn’t even mind having to cycle uphill. I just wanted to go home.
All things considered, my day at Magdalene had been an interesting experience. It’s certainly a much nicer college aesthetically, apart from the gate between the college and the back end of John’s, which Prince Charles described as looking like a car park. Still, double beds aside, I finally felt normal again upon walking through North Lodge. Oh Fitz, how I’d missed you.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that no matter what college you end up in, it will always be your home, grounding you in the crazy bubble of Cambridge. Tune in for the next instalment to see how Caitlin got on at Fitz.