How to convince your friends Cambridge is cool
Read: How to pretend you’re having more fun than them
Having a ‘home friend’ visit you at University is a surprisingly stressful experience, involving various layers of coordination and planning to pull off a weekend showing them the joys of Cambridge life while you ignore the work piling up. You want them to get along with your friends, and for your new friends to see just how cool your friendship group has always been.
There’s a fine balance to strike between spending quality time with them, and making them feel included in Cambridge life, nights out and pres. It can sometimes be a test of friendship, and will make it clear quite quickly who genuinely wants to see you, and who senses a nice opportunity for a weekend away and an insta from Formal because they’re bored on their gap year.
The difference between Cambridge and most universities will quickly become evident; my friend remarked after Formal Hall and her first experience wearing a gown that she couldn’t imagine that being part of her university experience. She found my minimalist cooking facilities (microwave and not much else) bizarre, since she is self-catered, and even the College system is completely alien. A friend’s visit is also an exercise in convincing yourself that Cambridge and everything that comes with it is worth the hard work- who hasn’t asked themselves why they ‘didn’t just go to Bristol’ in a moment of essay induced frustration? Showing someone around Cambridge can actually make you realise that it’s got a lot going for it (there had to be something to make up for the exhaustion).
Here’s how to be the host(ess) with the most(est) and show your friends the Cambridge highlights:
Reading week happened to coincide with Week 5, so while my friends were gearing up for a week of recovery, I managed to end up with three essays and a dance show in a 5-day period. My approach was to get it all out of the way (admittedly with a slight decline in quality) so that I could actually enjoy the weekend. Two days though, in Cambridge time, may as well be a week, so on Monday the mountain of work was demoralising to say the least. But having a friend from home visit felt almost like leaving the Cambridge bubble and was surprisingly restorative, so definitely worth the extra work around it.
2) What to Do
The challenge I encountered this time was that, since my friend had already visited once last term, I’d essentially already shown her most of what I know about Cambridge. Having been to John’s, King’s Parade and Market Square, I realised that I don’t actually know Cambridge that well yet. My approach was to go for long walks and use the weekend to explore Cambridge myself, something which I usually can’t do when my only walking is restricted to the triangle between College, Sidgwick and Sainsbury’s.
A frequent dilemma is whether to take your friends clubbing, in the knowledge that it will probably be an inferior experience to the clubs at their university. My friend was outraged that we had to get to Life before 11 to get in, and was still full of energy at 3am, at which point her nights out are usually peaking and mine are most definitely at their close. In any case, Sunday life is a good bet to show them the Cambridge clubbing scene. An alternative distraction strategy if you don’t know what to do is to hop between various nice cafés and market stalls…
3) Where to Eat
My friend was properly spoiled by the full Cambridge treatment; a wide variety of food options ranging from the three-course meal at Formal Hall, to the arguably more satisfying cheesy chips at Van of Life post clubbing.
Some ideas for where to take your friends include:
Urban Shed– Urban Shed is off the tourist trail, and just that bit quirky and edgy. They do hearty, well-priced sandwiches and are very veggie and vegan friendly.
Savino’s– An Emma favourite, a Savino’s sandwich for lunch the day after a night out never fails. They do Italian paninis and are really good value for money.
Taste of Cambridge– Fondly referred to as the ‘falafel van’, their wraps are satisfying and slightly different. Alternatively, try the Cambridge Crepes van for an equally fantastic experience.
Van of Life/Gardies– You can’t claim to have provided the full Cambridge experience without a visit to one of these culinary meccas. The real backbone of Cambridge, fast access to cheesy chips after a night out will make them appreciate how convenient Cambridge’s petite size is.
This three-pronged strategy should help you show Cambridge off at its best and provide an excuse to visit nice cafés, discover more of Cambridge and pretend that work doesn’t exist.