A letter to my results day self: Everything I wish I’d known

Grab your IKEA cutlery, you’re in for a wild ride

Dear Sophie,

You did it! After the despair over the ELAT, the frankly numbing cold of the interview waiting area and several months of considering whether you should do a full Faust and pledge your soul to the Devil for a hope of getting in, you pulled it off! I know you’re excited but terrified right now – the big fat Zoom call that is university in 2020 is looming forebodingly in the distance and you haven’t even thought about a student bank account yet (actually, side note, please get on that ASAP, you’re going to be stressed about that in a few weeks). I understand that you’re worried and I have appeared, like a phantasmal pseudo-College Parent, to give you some advice and guide you on your merry way from rural Essex to the sprawling metropolis (not quite) that is the city of Cambridge.

Make sure you budget for the stash

I’ve noticed that people love really aggressively sporting college merch. Whether that be Peterhouse jumpers, teddy bears or cufflinks (yes someone has actually bought those, I know, I was shocked too), you will become quickly ensnared in an inescapable web of college pride. Resistance is futile. You have already defended the merits of Peterhouse with your life to several disparaging critics. You’re actually kind of loving it. You have one friend especially who flaunts his Cambridge lanyard with particular patriotic aplomb, almost to the point where we’re all starting to believe he may actually be a Ryder and Amies propagandist. Half the time, I’m expecting him to tell me to use code RYDER for 10 per cent off (#ad). You’re going to want in on this too so make sure you put some money aside for that sweet Peterhouse face mask/scarf/whatever takes your fancy.

Freshers at the homeland that is Ede and Ravenscroft

Prepare for the obscene number of stairs everywhere

It’s about time you start building up those glute muscles because for a flat, boggy East Anglian city, Cambridge sure does have a lot of stairs. I don’t know if this is just me or if it’s just the building in which I happen to live but for someone who is athletically challenged like myself (aka disastrously unfit), I often feel, after ascending the staircase to my accommodation, that I have perhaps been on a religious pilgrimage/Three Peaks challenge/trek to the North Pole. The quads are struggling. The lactic acid is burning. My resolve is exponentially diminishing. Here in Peterhouse, the William Stone Building residents sit atop their 60s architectural throne, no stair-induced exhaustion in sight – they revel in the luxury of the lift, whilst we in St. Peter’s Terrace are left to the drudgery and toil of climbing an excessive amount of stairs, the idea of a lift merely an unfulfilled pipe dream. Every day is leg day in Cambridge. Prepare yourself for it.

4 St. Peter’s Terrace at Peterhouse aka the house of many stairs

For God’s sake, don’t bring a garlic press

There are going to be people who try and convince you that you need to bring a Kitchen Aid/pop cake maker/blowtorch and other assorted fancy kitchen utensils with you to university. This is disinformation. It is fake news. It’s not going to be Michelin star cooking that you’re going to be doing for yourself at Cambridge. The other day for breakfast I had cereal with oat milk that had turned to slush because the fridge was too cold and a vaguely tepid, overly milky hot chocolate. My flatmate eats Cheerios out of a Disneyland mug with a plastic spoon. Fox’s Golden Crunch Creams have become a cornerstone of my diet. This is not refined cuisine. It is opening a packet of crisps and calling it self-catering. It’s not that deep mate. Leave the wok at home.

Ah yes, the age-old “smile and hold your results up!!” photo

The imposter syndrome will feel very real

Pretty early on, you’re going to feel like you have approximately three brain cells and that you pulled off an international heist and managed to elaborately con your way into Cambridge. There are going to be amazing, talented people around you who’ve gone jungle trekking in Borneo/casually do advanced calculus for funsies/have won Olympic gold for tobogganing (slight exaggeration but you get the picture). You’re going to feel intimidated by them. Every time you come into college through the front gate, you’re going to feel like you’re trespassing. You’re going to start believing that maybe you don’t belong here after all. However, although I don’t always believe that everything happens for a reason, what you need to keep telling yourself is that you getting into Cambridge did happen for a reason. On some bleak midwinter day in January, a tweed-bedecked academic at the top of their scholastic game decided that you would add something to one of the most renowned academic institutions in the world. That’s literally insane. How are we all not aggressively overjoyed right now? You were meant to be here for a reason; they thought you would do well here and that you would cope here. Although it’s really easy to feel like you aren’t the shiniest candle in Formal Hall, if you catch my drift, you were meant to be here. You deserve your place. And you didn’t need to pledge your first-born child to UCAS to get it.

So, don’t worry Sophie, everything is going to be fine. Even if you don’t feel like you belong, even if you feel intellectually intimidated, even if you’re worrying right now how you’re actually going to manage to keep yourself alive at university, these next three years promise to be some of the most exciting ones of your life, so don’t allow your worries to make you forget that.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘Supervisions excite and terrify me’: The Tab talks to athletics star and fresher Amy Hunt 

We spoke to freps about this year’s freshers’ week

We asked freshers their preconceptions of Cambridge colleges

All image credits to author.