Imposter Syndrome? Here’s why it doesn’t matter

I don’t know about you, but I’ll never be a blue.

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As I reach the halfway point of my first Cambridge Michaelmas, it’s important to think about what has passed before, as much as what stretches in front of me.

Cambridge may have punts and magnificent architecture, but sometimes it feels all-encompassing, claustrophobic and even a bit crap.

But when you’re walking back through King’s amid the dregs of autumn, or you’re irritating people in the Life queue at 1AM, knowing you’ll probably miss that really vital 9AM the next morning, none of it seems to matter.

It’s a bit cliche, but when you snatch those rare moments and stop to look around you, that feeling that drove you to apply, to get through the interview and exam revision, that pulsating delight, and the bloody hell I’m lucky feeling grasps you again.

quick! never seen before photo of a punt

Quick! Never seen a photo of a punt before, obviously

And then you get set an essay.

One of the main warnings before you get here by friends, family, and of course The Student Room is the big fish-small-pond idea, the inferiority complex which lies at the root of Cambridge student meltdowns. My supervisor introduced me to the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ during Matriculation Formal, and I think it’s perfect. It’s easy to assume that everyone’s much cleverer and has a much better CV than you (and perhaps in my case they are and do) but you’re here because you’re supposed to be.

During my second night here, the Master made a speech which really resonated with me. She said that the admissions team don’t make mistakes, and I think everyone would do well to remind themselves of that.

It’s not always that easy. Someone always works harder than you do. For every person cramming chips from Gardies or the Van of Life into their mouths at 3AM, there’s someone who has already met their deadline that’s in three days time.

Maybe there’s someone that can do both. (But please don’t introduce them to me, I don’t handle jealousy well.)

On the whole, I haven’t really felt like an imposter. I’ve never really felt as at home anywhere as I do here. I’ve had abysmal supervisions, missed lectures, and turned in less than perfect essays. I’ve had days when I have been incapable of leaving my room for hours at a time until someone knocks on my door. I’ve locked myself out of my room (bloody Cam cards), lost socks when doing laundry (RIP) and generally felt crap.

wondering where that matching sock went

Wondering where that matching sock went

It’ll never be perfect here. Behind the picturesque facade, it becomes immediately clear that things have to give. You don’t have spare time. Friends and family back home are inadvertently, but nonetheless partially forgotten. It’s awful to watch relationships which meant everything to you dissolve. But they can and they do.

The thing that’s really stood out to me so far is how much our feelings oscillate here. You’re either with literally everyone at pres or dinner or in a club, feeling on top of the world, or you’re by yourself in your room, feeling shattered and close to breaking point.

the oscillation of feeling

The oscillation of feeling

The question I suppose I’m reflecting on from my (ridiculously) short time here is: is it worth the sacrifice? Things will certainly be lost as well as gained.

But, I wouldn’t change it for the world. For me (and almost everyone around me, it seems) Cambridge is absolutely worth the never ending deadlines, and the nights spent keyboard bashing in the library. Besides, whether it’s a formal, a swap or a club night, there’s always a good time around the corner.

And as much as you might argue with your supervisor and have a love/hate relationship with them, there’s nothing quite like when they give your work their seal of approval.

looks like we've made it

Looks like we’ve made it

Four weeks in, and I already have a lot to thank Cambridge for. Before coming here, I was often crippled with anxiety, reduced to panic attacks at simply walking through cities alone; but now I don’t even think about it. Nights out were always out of the question, but I’ve enjoyed the experience so much here. It hasn’t vanished completely, nor will it ever, but I’ve never been able to manage it so well.

except perhaps this

Loving Life. Literally.

Here’s something that I think everyone should keep in mind: if you don’t do something here, no one will make you. That relates to time management, personal welfare or just having a good time. Don’t miss out on something simply because you can’t be bothered.

And for God’s sake, go to Life.