My first year in songs

The long and winding road that is freshers year at Cambridge summed up in 10 songs…

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Freshers year at any university is a time marked by uncertainty, self-reflection and copious amounts of alcohol.

But at Cambridge, where all this and much more is crammed into three short terms, certain moments throughout the year become a lot more profound once you get to the end.

I could say that first year has been a “Rollercoaster of Love” the entire time but then, I’d be lying. I’d like to think that “I’m Not the Only One” who thinks that it’s been a “Long and Winding Road” from Freshers Week to now, post-exams. To quote the great philosopher that is DJ Khaled, “I Changed. A Lot.”

Firstly, there’s been the struggle of adapting to and coping with the Cambridge workload. Then there is the small matter of everything else: making friends, fitting in and learning to live independently sans Mummy and Daddy. Despite my natural talent as a linguist (by which I mean my complete lack of chill and a tendency to piss people off with my word vomit), I feel that only music can truly sum up the mixed bag of emotions that first year entails. Here are ten songs that sum up my time and maybe yours in this crazy bubble:

1) Freshers Week: The Kooks – Naive

“Oh you’re so naive, yet so…”


Blissfully ignorant freshers

Attempting to remember much from the beginning of Cambridge is tricky, as you have to cut through the haze of being perpetually drunk or hungover. The bright-eyed freshers in your cohort are all “smiling sweethearts”, eager to make friends and fit in. However, looking back on that time, I was incredibly “naive”.

I thought that uni would be easy compared to my gap year. It’d just be a case of making a few friends and getting on with the work. Unfortunately, life has a funny habit of getting in the way. But then, in hindsight, sometimes that uncertainty can turn out to be a great thing. I would never have thought that the moody wanker who nearly set the corridor on fire or the colourful eccentric asking me where I was really from on the first day (#brownpersonproblems) would turn out to be some of my closest friends now.

2) Week 5 Blues: Alicia Keys – Why Do I Feel So Sad?

“So it shouldn’t be so bad/so why do I feel so sad?”

The Week 5 blues can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you’re expected to feel awful therefore you often do. But mine was pretty damn horrible, featuring the dissolution of a two-year relationship, the realisation that I wasn’t coping with the work at all and dealing with depression. The universal friendliness of freshers starts to fly out the window as college life gets ever more cliquey and there’s a pressure to feel like you have your shit together by this point, especially when it can seem like everyone else does. However, it “shouldn’t be so bad”. “In time, things would change” and looking back, crossing that first hurdle makes you a more robust person in the long run.

3) Christmas: The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

“You scumbag/you maggot/you cheap lousy faggot/Happy Christmas your arse/I pray God it’s our last”

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Festive freshers

Going home for Christmas after Michaelmas term was strange. Even at that early stage in the year, I’d made friends that were very different to my friends back home and I’d changed considerably. In just eight short weeks, I’d already been swallowed by the bubble and upon leaving it for a brief period, life just didn’t feel the same. It was great to finally sleep, but I missed Cambridge and its antiquated nonsense.

4) Re-Freshers: Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town

“Guess who just got back today?/Them wild-eyed boys that had been away”

Coming back for Lent was really exciting. There was Re-Freshers Week where you saw all your shiny new uni mates again and a renewed desire to work harder. Alas, this energy had already disappeared by Week 2, but never mind.

5) Lent: Butterfly Boucher & David Bowie – Changes

“Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Just gonna have to be a different man”

On a side note, Shrek 2 is one of the best films ever made. Ok so yeah, Lent. Lent term was meant to be the term where I finally got it right. I was going to get into the swing of things with work, solidify my existing friendships and maybe make some new ones, get involved in more extracurriculars etc. Some of these things happened, but not in the way I’d expected. I got more behind with work than ever, housing ballots interfered with friendships and I felt quite run-down at times. However, it was also a term that saw a lot of change and trying new things.

6) College Marriage: Al Green – Let’s Get Married

“I want to settle down/and stop fooling around/Let’s get married!”


Crazy in love

College marriage is one of the most wonderfully Cambridge-y quirks of this strange institution. It provides a support network so you always have someone to talk to and I can’t wait to have kids in second year. It also guarantees you a Valentine’s Day card so you don’t feel too lonely. Valentine’s Formal was one of the most fun nights this year and dressing up as Jay-Z & Beyoncé pre-Lemonade and its “Becky with the good hair” saga was hilarious.

7) Easter vacation: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

“Pressure, pushing down on me/Pressing down on you, no man ask for”

Exams are always scary, but the pressure ramps up to insane amounts here in Cam. The people you used to see out every week at Cindies suddenly become hermits, locked away in the high towers of the library. The stress of revising is never fun, but there were some glimpses of happiness during this dark time. Meeting people for revision sessions was a great way of socialising and actually getting some work done, and spontaneous cups of tea and hugs made all the difference.

8) Caesarian Sunday: Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)

“Pour up (Drank)/Head shot (Drank)/Sit down (Drank)/Stand up (Drank)/Pass out (Drank)/Wake up (Drank)/Faded (Drank)/Faded (Drank)”


Wholeheartedly embracing the Cambridge stereotype

What is actually an anti-drinking song has somehow become an anthem for getting fucked at any time and as I learnt on Caesarian Sunday, day drinking is a whole different ball game to your usual Sunday Life pres. It was one of the most messy days of the year, but unbelievably fun. The weather was great and seeing so many happy faces on Jesus Green created a sense of solidarity that is often lost when we’re all trying our best to do as well as we can individually.

9) Post-exams: Jamie xx – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) ft. Young Thug & Popcaan

“I know there’s gonna be good times”

Words cannot truly express the sense of relief and joy you get once you finally finish your exams, so naturally a song will have to suffice. First year exams don’t count for the vast majority of us, but it’s still a massive achievement to know that you can survive an onslaught of highly academic three-hour exams. It makes the freedom ever sweeter.

10) First year: The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

“‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life”



Christmas in May because that makes so much sense #onlycambridgethings

Looking back on the year as a whole, it’s been a real journey, dude. It sounds like hippie bullshit, but there really have been ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and troughs. But now, I really do feel like I have grown up a fair bit. I feel like I’ve “found myself” more than on my “gap yahh”, I’ve made some fantastic friends and I hopefully haven’t failed my exams.

As hard as it is to believe, this whiny prick wouldn’t change anything. First year at Cambridge has been an amazing experience and I hope it has been for all of you too.