Reflections on Cambridge after a year abroad
When people ask me how my year abroad in Japan went, I usually say “it was interesting”.
I’m always reluctant to say anything too enthusiastic, because I’m a terrible liar and to be honest I spent long periods of time sitting in a room much smaller than my luxurious Trinity set, eating a lot of seaweed flavoured crisps and watching Arrested Development with Japanese dub until I started to question whether or not other people really existed or if actually Japanese George Michael Bluth was my only real friend.
Yet there were definitely a number of things that I’ll take away from the experience. I didn’t live right next to the holy trinity of McDonald’s, Gardies and Van of Life, so I cut down on the eating-a-lot-of-chips segment of my life. I also became really good at not saying anything awkward or offensive in social situations, largely because of my limited Japanese. But upon coming back to Cambridge, there were a few other things I realised I’d have to readjust to…
I don’t have to make my own bed anymore
University is often seen as the first step to independence. Since coming back to Cambridge I’ve realised that my college (Trinity) essentially treats us like hotel guests. I couldn’t even take my own litter out or spontaneously change my bedding if I tried because I don’t know where the bins or linen cupboards are. Someone is employed to do these things for me. I didn’t realise how ridiculous this was until I was elbow deep in trash on a hot Kyoto evening separating my litter into “burnable” and “non-burnable” categories. So basically, hug your bedder if you have one because there’s a big scary world out there where litter doesn’t go away by itself. *shivers*
What happened to all my friends
I was pleased to realise when I came back to college that some people still remembered who I was and some of them even wanted to be friends with me. Luckily, I came back and had a host of MML and AMES finalists plus the odd part-three Mathmo to choose from to assemble my dream team of fourth year comrades. I also feel as though I now fit the profile of “cool older friend”, if any first/second/third years are looking. But of course, it’s still a bit odd to think that most of my friends whom I matriculated with have graduated and are in a better place now – free from ever present essay deadlines and cringe-inducing supervisions which form a large chunk of my identity.
Am I old and respectable now?
When I was in first year I thought fourth years were old, wise and responsible. They showed me how to adapt to life in Cambridge, how to study for exams, and supplied me with solid role models. Now that I’m a fourth year, I have this feeling that I should know things, be good at stuff and act like an adult, but to tell the truth I still can’t even do basic things like make food (not even omelette), and if you asked me a question about studying I would probably cry. Realising that I am possibly (incorrectly) viewed as a worldly older student with knowledge about life is genuinely scary and I’m not sure that I can take it.
The Tab cares about my life
Before embarking on the year abroad I had finally come to accept the fact that Cambridge student newspapers didn’t care about my life story and weren’t going to approach me to ask about me or my experiences as the focus of an article. This is something which, I have to say, was shocking because I’m an interesting gal. But all of a sudden I go on a year abroad and it’s like people want to hear about my opinions and stuff. Bizarre.
Oh my god I have so much work to do
I forgot during the year abroad that I would have to come back to Cambridge and have the most intense year of work lying ahead of me. The most strenuous work I was assigned at university in Japan was an 800-character essay about “my favourite thing” and one of my final exams was literally just the question “what are some things you learned on this course?”… So let’s just say I’m going to have my work cut out for me. I might even have to cut down on the amount of hours I spend watching Arrested Development.