Every struggle I’ve had with my Cambridge fresher accommodation
Or, how to survive Blyth
We all know the feeling. We’ve heard the stories. Mates at Leeds and Lincoln, Birmingham and Bristol, with tiny flats and rat-infested communal kitchens.
Yet somehow, with our Waugh-infused optimism and Freshers’ naivete, we believe that we will be gloriously exempt from this accommodation nightmare, strolling around spacious rooms with Aloysius and the occasional glass of port, a contemporary Sebastian Flyte.
It turns out that it’s actually not that easy. Who knew? But for all you future Freshers, and anyone who’s a bit of a masochist and wants to relive their own first week, here’s a list of necessary mechanisms of survival:
Heard of 9AMs? I can feel the shudder of the entire student population at the mention of the dreaded things. When you’re a female sharing a bathroom with at least five members of the opposite sex, you dutifully set your alarm for a time you didn’t really know previously existed (or which became lost in the long stretch of summer) just to be typically English and avoid the horror of being caught in your bathrobe and slippers.
Another time with which you become terribly familiar when living in Blyth. Ground floor rooms which overlook a communal garden may as well be positioned in the middle of the Grafton Centre. In fact, you’d be more likely to sleep there. There’s nothing quite like being woken up by the sound of laughter and people’s stories of nights at Lola’s/Cindies/Life when you have a 9AM. Which brings me to…
Which naturally, we’re all too polite to do. It’d also be a bit awkward in the corridor the next morning and probably not the best way to start the first term at Cambridge. For those who are unaware, portering (now a verb, apparently) involves calling the Cambridge porters to come and quieten the noise so you can get some sleep. It feels more therapeutic to vengefully slam the door during early morning shower trips.
You’d struggle to eat in college without them, and (more vitally, depending on how close you are to missing your supervision deadline) get books out of the library. But for the majority of Cam accommodation, they also serve as your room key. It’s very embarrassing to be caught making the pilgrimage to the Plodge in your pyjamas. Or, in my case, feeling really organised when leaving my room with my purse with all my cards in, only to discover that the most vital of them was on my desk. So much for having it together.
The most useful thing about having a ground floor room which overlooks a public space is that you learn to either be looked at like a small animal in an exhibit or to keep your curtains firmly shut. Tourists become so captivated by the atmosphere of the college that they actually seem to find it socially acceptable to come right up to the window and take photographs of the accommodation. No, this isn’t Country Life.
I live here. Unless you want to appear as a somewhat confused part of the furniture in a tourist photograph, have unsolicited nudes being passed around because you left the curtains open when changing, or just be caught in the act whilst eating a chocolate digestive and crying over your reading list, keep your curtains closed.
Gyp (Which I can only assume stands for Generally Yucky Place)
The state of the Gyp is such that it seems a perfectly sane compromise to go without hot drinks, because the milk will more than likely be mouldy within hours of having been left in the fridge. Cooking food in there is also more than all those except the bravest dare do, unless there’s a particularly dull lecture series that you’re dying to miss due to salmonella. Or if you enjoy cooking in an environment where there’s the potential of finding a dead rat.
Just don’t set foot in there. Ever.
So even though Cambridge accommodation is pretty good, especially by the standards of some other universities, there are things to be wary of – it’s definitely not like Brideshead.