A letter to my fresher self
Don’t down it too often
Dear Fresher Me,
I write to you in a post-exam, prosecco-fuelled state of equal parts bliss and boredom to say one thing: chill the heck out.
You’re expecting Cambridge to be cut-throat: a Fresher’s week which is more survival of the (intellectually) fittest than survival of whoever’s got the highest alcohol tolerance. But trust me, it’s not really a dog-eat-dog world out here (more a student-eat-humus one). You’ll find that while people will be very focused and slightly competitive, a handful will look after you in return for you looking after them. They’ll cook you dinner when you’re stressed about exams, buy you giant marshmallows when you’re feeling homesick and cheer you on when you perform for the first time in a play. Cherish them.
I promise you not everyone is the stuck up intellectual you’re expecting to be stuck with for the next few years (shame on you for stereotyping) – you are guaranteed to find someone who shares similar taste in music, films or weird celebrity facts.
I know you think you’re the shit right now, but so is everyone else here, so before you get over-excited and boast about your various academic achievements/gap year/volunteer work/time you met Lenny Kravitz in a hotel reception, remember that you’re surrounded by some incredibly intelligent and interesting people who probably have a lot to say. Let them speak (or just look like a self-obsessed idiot).
You might think that, being the dedicated academic you are, you’ll be able to relish the Cambridge life by sampling lectures from every subject twice a week (in between going to art galleries and being part of 10 societies). In reality, you’re unlikely to go to any of your own lectures after the first three weeks. Don’t feel too guilty about that – you’re likely to just fall asleep in that 9am anyway.
As for societies, don’t be put off by the fact that everyone here is ridiculously multi-talented and modest about it – there’s no harm auditioning for a few plays or trying different college sports. And if you hate it, you could always write a witty Tab article about it.
Cambridge can be an intense place to be, you’ll need to find a way to break out of the crushing pressure of the bubble and gain some perspective. Walking around the colleges can be a nice way to appreciate that you are here for a reason other than to whither away in your room over supervision work. If that isn’t enough distance, Grantchester is just a punt or a swim away.
I know you want everyone to know what a social butterfly you are and you may think going out and getting trollied every night is a brilliantly subtle way of doing that, but as some point you’ll value the more meaningful nights in with friends, cooking dinner in your obscenely tiny gyp and playing piggy-in-the middle with a bouncy ball.
A final piece of advice: do not get a UTI. Lot’s of love from your older and superficially wiser self.