Do we all secretly wish we were at John’s?
Or would we rather be at Oxf*rd?
When applying for Cambridge, a family friend told me categorically not to apply to John’s. Everyone would ‘rather be at Oxford’ because it was swarming with rich, twatty schlads donning daddy’s signet ring (or if they were too povvo for that, John’s own one). I mean, it’s not as if those sorts aren’t to be found in the rest of Cambridge…
Over the past year, I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to be there. Surely it can’t be as bad as going to a college with no reputation and a name like a breakfast cereal company?
As a fresher, I was obviously trepidatious: what would people at John’s actually be like? Would they be swathed head-to-toe in chinos and pashmina’s? Would they be sporting a scruffy bun and the remains of a tan from their oh-so-voluntouristic-we’re-helping-out-the-poor gap-yah?
In fact, they were entitled and full of their own arrogance because they happened to vaguely bullshit their way through 2X20 minute interviews. So, completely the same as every other student here.
Why does John’s have such a rep then?
One reason could be envy. What if it was the case that everyone would actually rather ‘be at John’s than anywhere else?’ A quick Wikipedia peruse shows that the college’s alumni includes ten Noble Prize winners, seven prime ministers, and at least 7 Westminster students a year…Wordsworth studied there, as did the abolitionist Wilberforce and the dad from Outnumbered.
And envy inevitably breeds hatred. It’s the second richest, second largest college. It’s beautiful. And it has the oldest, biggest and most infamous May Ball, voted the 7th best party in the world by Time Magazine.
But if that’s the case, why don’t we all hate on Trinity? It’s larger, richer, more academically prestigious and arguably more beautiful (if you ignore the monstrosity constructed above Mainsbury’s). If envy was the sole motivator, why aren’t we more familiar with the chant ‘I’d rather be at Oxford than Trinity’?
There must be something else that people find annoying about John’s. Is it maybe their misplaced arrogance about the excellence of their college? Is it actually that great?
I mean, what is the deal with their accommodation? The idea of sharing a house with someone genuinely gives me heart palpitations, so I don’t get why everyone looks forward to the idea of ‘New Court sets’, where you have to walk through another person’s room to get to your own. You’ve either got to be celibate for the entirety of your second year or embrace the awkward post-Cindies, mid-coital eye contact with your neighbour as they go for their 2am wee.
Or is the case that a small proportion of its students are giving the rest a bad rep? Last year, there were reports that girls on swaps with John’s had experienced misogynistic behaviour epitomic of schlad culture, with fines including ‘fine if you’re ever got a girl so drunk that she’ll sleep with you.’ Classy… And really not okay.
Ultimately, I think it boils down to the fact that Cambridge has a dominant ‘grass is greener’ mentality. We always think it’d be better somewhere else. In an ideal world we’d create a hybrid college with the best parts of each: Christ’s location to Cindies, Clare’s cellars, Magdalene’s porters, Trinity’s wealth, Downing’s accommodation, Emma’s free laundry service, Jesus’s library and King’s formal.
But we live in the real world and that’s never going to happen.
There’ll always be aspects of your own college that you don’t like, or wish you could change. But after all, they’re the reason you’re studying here.
So, do I secretly wish I was at John’s. Maybe. I’d certainly rather be there than Oxford. But ultimately, the answer doesn’t matter, because I never will be.
Whether it’s envy, irritation, or simply a few people tarnishing its rep, maybe it’s time we stopped hating on John’s and loved it for what it is.