Finding yourself in Cambridge


Cambridge Freshers Week friends lost University of Cambridge

The traumatising moments which stand out as I reflect upon my first week at Cambridge are manifold. Drunkenly weeping to the Cindies bouncer that I had forgotten my ID, being outstandingly tipsy for the hour-long Matriculation photo at 8:45am the next morning, and locking myself out of my room whilst only wearing a bra and flares perhaps being a few highlights.

None, however, are comparable with the deepest trauma any first year can experience during their early days at Cambridge: getting lost.

And I'm not talking about that namby-pamby emotionally adrift state, or the I "found myself" in Ghana Gap Yah. I mean the good old-fashioned where the literal heck am I in this city?

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Spoiler: complaining about how frequently you get lost is not a good strategy for making friends

Inspired by the College Marshalls’ fanatical and fundamentalist precautions against setting fire to listed buildings (which, at Magdalene, featured a whole half an hour of videos of people themselves alight!!!), I thought I’d share my golden rules for remaining vaguely locatable at Cambridge.

1) Do not ever (ever) go to the University Library

Every publication known to man, all in one place. What could be better?
In short, a lot.

Whilst hiking through The Unknown with your 20p plastic bag in tow, the haven iDiscover made the UL out to be, quickly dissolves into academic anarchy. Why aren’t there any lights on? What is the West Room? How does 245:2.c.200.774 correlate to any real-life referencing system? Or, indeed, anything in real life? What on God’s earth is the overflow? Why are some books "un-borrowable"?!

Potential solutions include: retreating to your hopelessly ill-equipped college library or absolutely refusing to write your supervision essay until Google Maps includes book-locating feature.

2) Do not ever (ever, ever) go into other colleges

Picture a peaceful Saturday morning at the end of Freshers’ Week. Birds were singing, squirrels were squirrelling, my head was pounding. All was well. Energised by three cups of coffee and the cumulative 10 hours of sleep I’d reaped over the past five days, I began the intrepid journey to the Seeley Library to retrieve a book on Galileo.

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Even Google Maps was confused

That is, until a locked gate in John’s barred the only way I knew of getting to the History Faculty. Instead of doing the sensible thing and going back to bed, I valiantly entered the no-man’s-land which was another college.

After 30 minutes of aimless walking and being guided to safety by two separate sets of Porters, I concluded that leaving the loving arms of college is simply too much hassle. In future, I’d advise not even trying.

3) Do not ever (ever, ever, ever) pretend to understand Cambridge jargon

Part of the reason for this harrowingly confusing trip to Sidgwick was the fact that I didn’t believe "Orgasm Bridge" actually existed until circa two days ago.

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There is literally nothing sexually explicit about you

From Pidges to Plodges to gyps, there are innumerable “words” at Cambridge masquerading as English. Combined with the disorientating fact that Cindies is actually Ballare and Life is actually Vinyl (which was actually Kuda), negotiating your way from pre-drinks to the club becomes a whole new exciting challenge!

This secret language is part of what makes The Bubble feel quite so, well, bubble-y. Once I become my older-infinitely-wiser-Week-2-self, I’m sure this’ll be wonderful. Until then, I think it’s safest to slowly back away every time someone asks where the ADC is.

To cut a long story short, JRR Tolkein may have said that "not all those who are wander are lost", but I certainly am.