How Cambridge takes over your life

I want to break free

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Week Five is upon us and Cantabs are starting to snap. Our deadlines are getting tighter and tighter, our bank balances are dwindling and our exhausted livers are crying out for mercy.

We took no prisoners in our attempts to get to this shining beacon of academic achievement only to realise that Cambridge is even more ruthless in squeezing out every last drop of scholarly potential from its bleary-eyed, VK addict students.

We may pay through the nose for our degrees, but we’re certainly not their masters. On A-Level results day we were, like Death Eaters, stamped as the property of Cambridge University. We made a naïve promise to do our supervisor’s bidding, no matter how bad the hangover, how perplexing the essay title or how spicy your latest Tinder match.

Exhibit A: The author attempting to hide from deadlines

You can’t run, you can’t hide. Not in the black cave of Kuda, in the warm glow of the Van of Life or even in the distant land of Girton. In several subtle ways, your degree invades your life with a forcefulness matched only by the culinary dominance of Pret-A-Manger. We all convinced our interviewers that we loved our subjects, and most of us weren’t lying. Yet every painful caffeinated hour in the library just serves to prove that we are owned by the degrees that we love so much.

You know your life is in the grip of your degree when even the most basic tasks become procrastination. When you’re in the middle of an essay crisis, or your Varsity match approaches you just don’t have the time to wash your clothes like any normal human being at any normal university. When someone burns £20 in front of a homeless man, the shattered student journo just doesn’t have the time to go to Sainsbury’s.  I don’t know who said that three square meals a day is good for you, but I know they didn’t go to Cambridge.

Before we sold our souls for an MA (Cantab)

Yet if you can’t even find time for the essentials, then how can you spare a moment for luxuries? Your organised neighbour may be able to settle down to a chilled evening of Netflix in full knowledge that they’ve conquered all of their deadlines for the week to come. However, for mere mortals evenings are either a frenzy of last-minute work, an exceptionally guilty night out or, in the worst case, hours of self-hatred and existential crisis.

Procrastination is the mother of all academic fuck-ups, but surely if we all love our subjects we should be drooling over our supervision work rather than dreading it? We shouldn’t consider every essay as one step closer to the solace of the Easter holidays, or as a ticket to a few hours of blissful leisure. Yet despite all of our enthusiasm, it’s just too easy to waste hour upon end flicking through Crushbridge, looking for a non-existent secret admirer, or staring at the same page of some interminable book.

Cantabs survive 9AM supervisions with wicked hangovers all the time but there’s something soul-crushing about mustering the courage to get down to work.

‘Please bore someone else with your…questions’

Doing the work is often the easy bit. The most miserable part of the Cantab’s day is flicking onto Hermes webmail only to find an email entitled ‘Supervision Assignments’. Every day we are bombarded with new deadlines, reminders about overdue books and unassailable college bills. We are responsible not just for our academic performance but also our livelihood. Cambridge is such an academic pressure cooker that essay deadlines can get in the way of genuinely living your life as a human being.

It would be so nice not to be indebted to your college and to phone your mum and dad on a regular basis. Yet the Cambridge whirlwind of despair has an awful habit of sucking us in.

But it’s important to end on a high. Our Cambridge degrees, although difficult, will offer us a free pass to a good life. Our skills and expertise are desired in every industry, enterprise and country. The modern labour market is so flexible and so competitive that your job must become your life if you are to survive.

So it’s best to think of Cambridge as a training ground for the future. Whether you follow your dreams into a charity or you sell your soul to the corporate machine, the intensity and relentlessness of the Cambridge life will prepare you for your life ahead.

It may seem tough now, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.