Bursting the Cambridge bubble: what exactly is it?
Like I’m a Celeb, but with more breakdowns
As soon as we arrive in Cambridge, we are told about the bubble. It is given an almost religious significance and can be blamed for practically anything from asocial behaviour to being plain annoying. And I do in fact agree, after my first term in Cambridge I still know embarrassingly little about my new home city and I rarely venture outside of my usual route of John's to Sainsbury's.
To explain, the bubble is the concept that Cambridge students are blocked off from the outside world in our own communities for periods of eight weeks at a time and only resurface for holidays and possibly free dominoes. Yet, does such a thing exist, or are we too busy with our heads stuck in Milton that we fail to notice life going on around us? Are we being protected by the bubble or is the bubble protecting the rest of the country from the hordes of gown wearing, hummus-munching, middle-class teens moaning about library fines?
Firstly, it is hard to differ between what I can blame on the bubble and what I must blame on my own general stupidity and lack of common sense. Whilst at Cambridge there always seem to be more important things than 'The News', such as pre drinks locations and Buttery menus and so it becomes easy to just ignore it.
On returning home you then realise how little you know about what has happened in the last two months, or that things even have happened, and your family fill you in whilst they wonder why they invested so much time and money in you. The nature of Cambridge's busy and stressful terms means that it is very difficult to have time for anything else and after having finally decided to rest, should we feel guilty for simply wanting to relax in college with other worldly-unwise students.
When you are hurrying to grab your lunch in between lectures you don't always have time to explore Cambridge further than a few central streets. This type of exploration would be ideal for weekends, yet our weekends are either spent in the library or attempting to work off that week's cheesy chip intake (or vegan alternative) through sport. In addition, the college system does nothing but add to the feeling of claustrophobia as its very nature creates barriers between colleges, making it even harder to notice life outside your own collegiate existence.
The bubble also exists in the form of language. On arrival it is a race to see how quickly you can master such intricate terms as 'plodge' and 'DoS', as well as to know how many supervisions you can go to before you should refer to them as 'supos'. These words might be everyday parts of Cambridge jargon, yet they will require explaining on your return home as your friends look on confused and then switch the conversation to all the cool things they did while you were in the library.
I don't want to have to list all the times that I have had to explain that I even though my college marriage might not be religiously binding, I am planning on having two kids next year. Cambridge life contains so many nuances that living here you feel like you reside in a bubble that only other Cantabs understand. However, this bubble is one of our own making, one we bought into as soon as we arrived in order to live in what we thought was the Cambridge ideal. It is the bubble that made us believe the college marriage system isn't as completely bizarre as it is, and that it is perfectly normal to pay £175 for a party that takes place outside your bedroom window.
The Cambridge bubble is also provided from the outside looking in, which is easy to understand as we must seem like an odd bunch. We worked for years to get here only to moan incessantly about the workload and to destroy our brain cells through a toxic mixture of junk-food and alcohol. We are seen wearing silly gowns and suits for no real reason and complain about the tourists who spend money which is in turn spent on us. The only time the real citizens of Cambridge see us is when we stumble out of Cindies in the early hours or when we need to make a trip to Sainsbury's because the milk ran out. Up and down the country we are stereotyped, either rightly or wrongly, for being pretentious and exclusive, which reinforces the bubble surrounding us, making us appear like a very geeky and not very appealing cult.
In conclusion, the Cambridge bubble is a reflection of how being at Cambridge makes it easy to be absorbed in your own life in the whirl of eight weeks. Although in spite of myself, there are some aspects of the bubble that I quite like. I enjoy how everything I need is a twenty-minute walk away from me. I like the community feel of college and I like bumping into people walking round Sainsbury's, most of the time anyway. Perhaps the Cambridge bubble exists not only to isolate us, and therefore tricking us into actual work, but also to prevent us from having real responsibilities, the perfect strategy for adulthood-fearing students. After all, it is a lot harder to be scared of the outside world when you only have to see it once a day.