The freedom that is life in a second year house
Big Brother can’t reach me here. For now.
Second year is well underway and I have finally made my escape from the confines of college.
From the grimy, oppressive concrete structures with the soul-sucking power of a hungry Dementor, which signifed my “modern” accommodation in college last year, to the glorious freedom of living beyond the college bubble, I finally feel as if I am actually a student.
Putting aside the fact that we still have our rooms cleaned once a week for us, our bins are emptied three times a week, we can still go to hall for meals and that our new-found freedom is under a strictly transient time-frame before we are shuttled back into the college cattle-pen to be kept under close surveillance for the intensity of finals, I’m tentatively enjoying the freedom. For the moment, anyway.
Admittedly, with college-owned houses there is still far less adulting than at other universities: no bills to sort out, no being hassled by landlords and no painful house-searching. Cambridge might still be as ever-reluctant to let us out of its overprotective clutches (less time to adult, more time to work, I believe, is the theory) but at least we have made one small step up towards freedom.
Living in college-owned accommodation beyond the college walls as a result feels like being on probational release into the real world, just without all the stress of having to actually be an adult with real responsibilities.
I now have access to a kitchen larger than a prison cell, I no longer have to hoard 20p coins for my laundry and, best of all, I am surrounded by pretty much all of my friends in a convenient row of houses just far enough away from college to allow us to pretend we don’t have degrees.
The house parties are of course an undeniably appealing advantage of being in a second-year house over living in college. Rarely do you have to worry about a party coming to an abrupt end because someone has been caught on CCTV by an eagle-eyed porter, getting too familiar with Charles Darwin’s statue or generally proving a drunken threat to grade-listed, priceless historical buildings.
From the 24/7 totalitarian Big Brother surveillance of college that would seem to make all of Orwell’s fears a reality, to the relative independence of living beyond the college grounds, I am enjoying my year away from the overwhelming competitive pressures that seem to loom inescapably over life within college.
A rule was very soon established that once I returned to the house in the evening after spending all day trapped in the college library, work was pretty much left behind. Having distinct spaces for work and a social life is much more productive than the monotonous shuttle trips back and forth from the library to my room in college of last year.
In the heavenly sanctuary that is Jesus Lane you can’t help but be reminded that things do exist outside the insular college bubble and you can (almost) pretend that you are just a normal person without crazy essay deadlines.
The second year house is no place for incoherent ramblings on the significance of fifteenth-century female mysticism; leave your insignificant degree behind at college and welcome to the much more healthy, defined line between work and a social life.
I will return to college next year glad that the distance to hall has been reduced but feeling nostalgic for the short-lived freedom of my second year house.