Cabin fever: The realities of spending six weeks of your first Cambridge term in lockdown

Not every fresher had the time of their life in Michaelmas, and that’s okay


As freshers coming to Cambridge in the middle of this pandemic, we never expected a term full of partying, socials, and drunken escapades. However, it definitely came as a massive shock to us first-year Homertonians that we’d be needing to self-isolate due to an outbreak of Covid cases in colleges, just a few weeks into term.

In fact, thanks to BoJo’s subsequent lockdown 2.0, more of our Michaelmas term was spent in lockdown than out of it. I’ve decided to give this *turbulent* start to uni life an extensive and necessary review.

Making friends: 8/10

The tape keeps the Covid out, duh!
(Photo credit: Helena Kruder)

As a result of the outbreak, Homerton’s West House was sectioned off, and you know what, there’s nothing like being literally penned into your block to strengthen friendships with new flatmates. A designated hour of exercise once every three days (health is wealth ladies) within the taped-off area saw many creative and desperate attempts at bonding. From wheelbarrow racing and games of stuck-in-the-mud, to cute but casual gyp-produced picnics, Homerton freshers were were keen to do whatever they could to socialise.

Unfortunately, points have been deducted for the awkwardness of being unsure of the names of people who live within five metres of you. A further deduction has been given for the fact that certain new friends stole all the salt and vinegar crisps from the catering packages. Totally not bitter.

Nightlife: 1/10

Can’t be getting cute polaroids in clubs now, can we? (Photo credit: Author’s own)

For some students the idea of spending a Wednesday night shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, screaming the rap verse in Wannabe, makes them cringe internally. Admittedly, Cambridge was never going to be the wildest of nights out. However, as a self-proclaimed *extrovert*, it was difficult to walk past a boarded-up Spoons on our daily exercise without shedding a tear.

More importantly, without a proper freshers’ week, how could we be sure that our new college fiancés weren’t the type to go too hard at pres and not make it to the club? Is it even worth making friends with your flatmate if you can’t know if they prefers a D&B night or a cheese room?

Nevertheless, crowding around a laptop to play drinking games whilst watching Ratatouille did teach me that maybe, just maybe, I can wait a bit longer for a sticky-floored night out.

Understanding your subject: 2/10

One point has been awarded to this category for the ability to roll out of bed, shove on a jumper and be in an online lecture within the space of three and a half minutes (I’m not sure how I’ll function without my pyjamas when in-person post-Covid lectures make their return).

The other point has been given for Zoom’s ‘chat’ function: the place where you can confirm with fellow students that, ah yes, none of us understand what’s going on.

Aside from that, the academic side was pretty dire. Normally, Cambridge is a place where you feel out of your depth when supervisors ask you on-the-spot questions about concepts that you’ve never heard of. It’s another thing for said supervisors to expect you to retain any information when your brain is preoccupied with your new full-time employment as a TikTok viewer and Twitter doomscroller. Sorry I didn’t get my essay in on time David, I was too busy contemplating the state of the world x

Health and fitness: 3/10

Our culinary expertise was put to the test. A test which we failed. (Pictures credits: Author’s own)

It says a lot that several freshers have been spotted sporting college rowing stash despite not yet being allowed on the water (I’ll leave you to decide whether that level of optimistic eagerness is something to aspire to).

The enthusiasm for getting fitter, as showcased in the first lockdown, definitely did not resurface for most of us in lockdown 2.0. In my college, questions such as: “Are you doing Yoga with Adriene?” or “I’ve completed PE with Joe, what now?” were quickly replaced with: “Is it possible to live entirely off of tortellini?” or “Red Bull is one of your five a day, right?” We love a bit of fine dining.

Theatre: 7 /10

The ADC’s final in-person performance before lockdown (Photo credit: The Cambridge Footlights)

The fact that I’ve entered the ADC only once so far hurts my thespy heart. Nevertheless, the sheer perseverance of my fellow performers to not let theatre go down in flames gives me hope that all is not lost. Streamed productions were almost enough to fill the void of not being able to go and see shows, or socialise with fellow castmates.

And who knows, maybe we’ll all discover an intense passion for video editing and radio along the way?

Formals: -1/10

No formals? Just fake your own! (Photo credit: Author’s own)

To be able to rate formals, we’d have to actually be able to experience them. And no Homerton, a virtual formal doesn’t count.

Imagine my mum’s disappointment when I told her we didn’t even get a proper matriculation photo.

This term was hardly what any of us freshers anticipated. But, after all’s been said and done, I wouldn’t change it for the world…

That’s a lie. I absolutely would.

Featured image credit: Amy Mallows

Homerton College was approached for comment. 

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I’m a fresher, and I don’t regret starting Cambridge in the middle of a pandemic

The Tab’s Guide to Cambridge from Home: How we survived Easter 2020

Disposable cameras, indisposable memories: Looking back on Michaelmas through rose-tinted lenses

Enough is enough: Please stop judging students for returning to Cambridge