A Fresher’s thoughts on Lent term
Welcome back to the slaughterhouse
You’ve been to Cindies, you’ve survived supervisions and you’ve just come back for more.
Cambridge terms are so frantic that they don’t leave much time for personal reflection. The Cantab-about-town scurries from supervision to swap to sweaty night out with one thing in their mind. Survival. However, Michaelmas culminated with a restful holiday filled with pets, family and your favourite branded items that you can’t afford during term time (R.I.P Tropicana).
Lent term is all the more perilous because it lacks this precious pit stop. Revision, internships and part-time jobs to tame your wicked overdraft are some of the responsibilities that await you at the end of this term.
We’ve all been there; bursting into a packed lecture theatre in pyjamas, coffee in hand, having woken up only fifteen minutes prior. It’s only a natural student-y thing to do? Wrong. You can’t learn well if you’re working off a hangover so you can resolve to complete a morning ‘Hour of Power’. This doesn’t have to be a Gulag regime of hard labour, unsweetened porridge and quiet contemplation; but eating something solid while skimming headlines or reading over lecture notes will definitely provide you with some armour to help you survive the day.
Speaking of lecture notes, the next key to survival is keeping more-or-less on top of your work. This is the same exhausting narrative as your supervisors, parents and more organised friends love to preach; but it’s a plain fact that getting it over and done with makes your squad trip to Cindies all the more enjoyable. Supervisors can be unsympathetic and as the work piles up, your capacity for fun decreases dramatically. On the other hand, becoming a library troglodyte, subsisting only on coffee and adrenaline is a step too far and should be avoided at all costs. Living as a hermit is so 12th century.
Work however, is pretty hard and it’s often easier to hide from it than to actually get it done. Thus, maintaining interest in your subject is absolutely critical. Every Cantab proved to their interviewer that they loved their subject, so take the time to remind yourself that your personal statement wasn’t utter bollocks. Reading another book by an author you study, keeping on top of current affairs or doing whatever science-y people do might just make your interminable reading list all the more bearable.
Many a supervisor reminded their students at the beginning of this term that at Cambridge, work takes precedence over anything and everything else, but that maintaining an active social life was almost as essential. We were all there, three days into freshers’ week when we were added to a WhatsApp group chat with a drunkenly misspelled name and a tyrannical admin who adds and removes the worthy with ruthless efficiency as per the Kim Jong Un school of leadership. You’re part of a squad, but that squad is going to become ever more fragile as the days get longer and the work gets harder. We’re all so entrenched in the ‘Pres-Cindies-Van’ death spiral that it would be really refreshing to try a chilled Wednesday in the college bar every once in a while.
Remember though that being part of a group can be exhausting. Every Cantab’s worst nightmare, FOMO, looms over every waking moment, making the idea of some you-time almost unthinkable. Yet a solitary jog around our beautiful little city, a trip home to see the fam or a late-night Netflix binge might just be your most potent weapon in the fight to stay sane this term.
Without the work Cambridge would be a tough social landscape to navigate, but with the addition of a heavy workload it can become unbearable. Japan has long struggled with Karōshi, or ‘death by overwork’, where young professionals replace sleep, sex and social interaction with hours and hours of overtime in order to achieve the validation of their boss, doesn’t that sound a bit like giving up on life to impress your supervisor? Surviving this term is going to be even harder than surviving freshers.
Take care Cantabs, the fun of being around your friends makes the pain of work worth it in the end.