Patronising notes for freshers
So you can appreciate or denigrate more fairly.
Despite the fetishisation of subtlety in academic essays, Cambridge students do tend to be quite hasty to assign aspects of their university experience entirely positive and negative characteristics.
Nuance is lost. Here is a list correcting some commonly held positive and negative misconceptions about Cambridge institutions that are regularly seen as either impressive or underwhelming
Currently known to some young radicals as ‘Kuda’, back in the halcyon days of my own fresherdom it was called ‘The Place’, known to everyone as Life, and attended religiously on Sundays and occasional Thursdays. You’ll meet many a Cantab who’ll sneer at the sweat-ridden underground cesspit, or point out, correctly, that it must be one of the few nightclubs outside of the City of London where a large proportion of the clients attend in ties. Life is regularly listed on The Tab as one of Cambridge’s least cool nightclubs, and this from a less than stellar lineup.
It’s underrated, however, because it’s just so much fun. There’s marginally better music than Cindies, with a smoking alley that doesn’t fence you in, not nearly as much irritating edginess as Fez and last – but certainly not least – significantly less risk of suffering actual violence at the hands of the bouncers than certain other establishments in Cambridge I could mention.
Try and abandon your scepticism, or at least, pretend to go ironically, and dance the night away with some well chosen Long Island Iced Teas. You may find that you’ll have a much more enjoyable evening than if you spend your time in the queue to Fez and on a weekend’s hike out to Junction drugged up to your eyeballs.
Whatever you do, don’t try to tell me that the Hawaiian theme of Lola’s is less tacky.
They’re a strange breed, the students of smaller colleges, less mocked than pitied. Not for them the half smiles on most Cambridge students when someone introduces themselves as being at Girton or Robinson. No, Corpus, Magdalene and Peterhouse elicit a certain curiosity. Of course, they seem nice enough, but who actually imagines they’d want to go there? Au contraire, my fresher friend, these colleges are great.
I have friends at all of them and I can attest that they are convivial, friendly, well-located, and possessing a certain charm that the overbearing buildings and bolshevism of King’s completely lack. Yes, if you want to play non-football team sports you may have to combine with another college. And yes, it sounds a bit claustrophobic at times. But make sure to do an extracurricular outside of the college itself and you’ll be fine.
Back in the real world, many seemingly functioning adults are forced to spend literally hours of their day engaged in the preparation – yes, preparation – of food for eating. Sitting forlornly well beneath Formal Hall in the average Cambridge student’s favourite quirks of Cambridge life is the three meals a day drudgery of the buttery. You will inevitably complain about the standard of the sausages or the Ottolenghi obsession of your college’s head chef (I went to Pembroke) but once you take a step back, or leave, the true luxury of having usually reasonably priced and edible food prepared on your behalf three times a day becomes clear.
Hail to the Buttery!
Yes, I know they’re richer than Branson or something, their alumni list is about as impressive as the rest of the university as a whole, and their accommodation is spacious and luxurious. That’s all irrelevant if your college lacks a soul. It’s too big, both in size and in number of students. One of the great advantages of the college system is you can realistically know nearly everyone in your year. Not really possible at Trinity. Even if you did it’d take you half your limited Cambridge days to wander between them all. The result is a notable lack of spirit except a sort of bizarre smugness about the results of their Mathematical introverts and a wealth that is entirely unearned.
To my mind they never really completely shook off the association with Kim Philby, the Cambridge Five, and the resultant slight whiff of treason.
Leaving Cambridge with a Blue, a First or a Wife (or husband)
You won’t go far in Cambridge without being told, half-seriously, that your time here will go wasted if you haven’t achieved one of these feats before you leave. Utter codswallop. Look at me, I achieved none of these things, and while I may be chubby, unemployed, and alone I still feel perfectly jovial in the morning.
On a serious note, though, kudos to those physical, mental, and charisma athletes who do get there, but most don’t. Too many people in this town have been made miserable pushing themselves too hard and not enjoying the ride.
“Everyone needs to try it just once.” No, you don’t. Don’t risk being ensnared and don’t give in to peer pressure. Develop your understanding of bumps and coxes enough to cheer and booze on Boat Race day and to keep up with the conversations rowers will have. You’re going to be subject to these conversations whether you row or not, so you might as well be able to follow them.
A Socialist Worldview
Come on guys, Corbyn is so 1980s.
Joseph Spencer is a former Co-Editor of the Tab who spent four years at Cambridge and graduated last summer. He is unemployed.