I’m a fresher, and I don’t regret starting Cambridge in the middle of a pandemic
‘I took the decision to plunge myself into a non-ideal situation, and I feel like that decision paid off’
I remember Cambridge being the first university back in May to announce that lectures would be online at least until summer 2021 and coming to the disappointing realisation that my fresher experience would not be a normal one.
I had already taken one gap year so though I was less likely to take another one, it did still sound like a tempting option. However, having completed one term (and one lockdown) in Cambridge, I feel like I made the right decision starting university this year.
‘I still haven’t quite figured out how students pre-corona were able to be up, dressed and out of their rooms for a 9am’
Firstly, although sitting in an actual lecture hall is still definitely something that would be nice to do at some point in my degree, I have found online lectures to have a lot of advantages, especially when I was just getting used to the new style of teaching and hadn’t figured out how to take notes or concentrate properly.
Being able to re-watch my lectures was a lifesaver and I honestly don’t know how students ever did examples papers without having that option. The ability to pause my lectures to take the time to understand something or to watch one lecturer on 2x speed and another on 0.75x speed has also become incredibly useful.
Most importantly, I’m so grateful that I don’t have to attend 9am lectures in person, and I still haven’t quite figured out how students pre-corona were able to be up, dressed and out of their rooms by then.
‘Freshers as a cohort this year were incredibly receptive to others and just generally happy to make friends’
Socialising has been something difficult to do in a pandemic, especially when you don’t know many people and you’re trying to meet others. However, despite all the restrictions, I did find that I was still able to meet people and find ways to see them safely, in person. I felt that freshers as a cohort this year were incredibly receptive to others and just generally happy to make friends.
I may not necessarily have kept in touch with had we not been in the middle of a global pandemic. Though watching the sunset on Castle Mound isn’t quite the university nightlife that I had imagined, having to find new ways to spend time with others enabled me to get to know them on a closer level.
‘I would much rather have a degree to do during lockdown, then have absolutely nothing to do all day’
This third lockdown is really difficult and it’s not going to be easy to do a Cambridge degree without actually being in Cambridge. However, I would much rather have a degree to do during lockdown, then have absolutely nothing to do all day – I’m not sure how much more Netflix my brain can handle. I’m lucky to not have many responsibilities that take up my time at home and if I didn’t have something to focus on I’d be extremely bored right now.
Finally, despite all the restrictions, I still had a great first term. I study engineering and the department had a fair amount of labs going on, and most of my supervisions were in person, so even though I wasn’t getting the full in-person teaching experience, I do feel lucky that I was able to receive a lot more than what I knew others were receiving.
‘I feel like that decision paid off’
I met some amazing people, was lucky to be put into a household with people that I enjoy spending time with, and got to explore and get to know Cambridge. My college’s JCR has been incredible, and provided household activities throughout term, from gingerbread baking and Zoom yoga to cocktail making.
However, coming into this year, I didn’t know how long we’d be in this situation and I didn’t want to take another gap year only to risk still not having a normal start to university.
Yes, this term has been really challenging (and unprecedented) at times, but normal times can also present their own types of challenging situations. I knew what I would be going into, took the decision to plunge myself into a non-ideal situation, and I feel like that decision paid off. As well as that, when we do finally get a normal year, it’s going to be worth all the while.
Lastly, at least I got to partially experience Cindies before it shut forever (RIP), managed to receive a crushbridge, and even bagged myself a wife!
Things can only go up from here!
Feature image credits: Sophie Carlin