Here are the eight ways that a Cambridge degree feels like a full-time job

As Rihanna once said: “Work, work, work, work, work, work”


It was the last day of Freshers’ Week, and my day began with an ‘Introductory Lecture to Economics’. To be honest, although the lecturer seemed (and I now know is) nice enough, I was very hungover and wasn’t really paying attention. Because of this, I couldn’t tell you a single thing that I learnt or heard on that Zoom call, apart from…

“You should expect this degree to feel similar to a full-time job”. Having been at Cambridge for a term and a half, I know that my lecturer’s statement is not an undeniable truth (I’m not convinced you can bin off your work for a mid-afternoon pret, for example). However, here are all the reasons why I think Cambridge does (kind of) feel like a full-time job:

1. The 9-5 grind is real

On average, my working day begins at 9 or 10am, and, just like Dolly Parton (and the majority of the labour force), I seem to work from 9 to 5-if not longer!

To make it feel even more like a full-time job, I take a lunch break from 1-2 every day, and may even take this hour as an opportunity to get my daily exercise. No, I never work solidly throughout the day, but (the earliest :/) I will finish work is 5pm. This leads me nicely onto…

Dolly looks much happier about working 9-5 than I do (Image credits: Kingkongphoto & www.celebrity-photos.com via Creative Commons License)

2. Except the working day never really finishes at 5pm

Supervisor sent you a last-minute essay? The Tab wants you to write a new commission? Cambridge Investment Banking Society has opened up a research article competition? Well, suddenly it’s 5pm, and you know you’re nowhere near ticking off everything on your to-do-list.

As an economics student, I am lucky enough to have some free time to do extracurriculars. As an economics student, I am also cocky enough to think I have enough time to do lots of extracurriculars. I do not. This ends up with me crying and drinking Aldi cider because I’m working late and not even getting paid. At least if I was working late at Morgan Stanley, I could cry and drink expensive cider. 

Working late and looking sad

3. Talking about your lecturers as you would about your boss

“I like his new haircut”. “I wonder if he’s married?!”. “She never answers my questions :(“. “I’m terrified of her”. “Is that a painting of her in the background?!” These are all things that may or may not have been said about our lecturers in the group chat.

I don’t know why their lives are so fascinating, and we feel the need to comment on any minor changes we see, but we do. It’s probably not great that I spend ⅔ of the lecture admiring my lecturer’s funky glasses, but I guess it beats trying to understand any of the maths we’re being taught. 

If only I was bold enough to post this

4. The commute (for this, we’ll have to pretend that we’ve actually had to cycle to lectures this year)

As a Girton student, the commute is a struggle. Whether you were out at the club, banging out an essay or relaxing with friends, chances are you didn’t get adequate sleep last night. You may be able to drag yourself out of bed, get dressed and munch on a bit of toast, but imagine you then have to cycle a full 15 minutes to your lectures. It is absolutely pouring with rain in classic Cambridge style, and your bike is making a dodgy noise. It is not ideal whatsoever.

In my opinion, this experience is pretty similar too: being squashed up next to someone’s sweaty armpit on the tube; sitting next to a mum and a screaming child on the bus; speedwalking to work whilst other people give you a judgemental look. A commute really is the last thing you want to be doing before 9am. 

Tell me you go to Cambridge without telling me you go to Cambridge… (Image credits: Oscar Robinson)

5. It’s always on your mind

Maybe this has been intensified because there’s hardly anything else we can legally do, but I find it very tricky not to think about my degree. Either I’m working, in which case there’s no way of avoiding thinking about my degree, or I’m trying to brush my teeth/cook my dinner/clean my room/etc as quickly as possible so I can squeeze in the lecture that I missed yesterday.

I cannot decide whether I’m constantly thinking about Cambridge and economics because I love it or because it terrifies me. All I can say is that I hope when we can go to clubs and formals again; I will have a better chance of successfully drinking to forget my degree. 

Number of fingers up = how many deadlines you have tomorrow

6. Performance-related bonuses

Because this is uni and unis are stingy, the bonuses are sadly not cash, but in other forms, such as praise from your supervisor. I would argue that the latter is actually more exciting. What is better than a world-renowned academic telling you that your essay was “better than average” or being awarded a 2.1/1st instead of your usual low 2.1?

There are also the bonuses that you get from studying at Cambridge. The impressed look you get when you whip out your CamCard to get a student discount. The fact that demand for your tutoring services skyrockets when people find out you go to Oxbridge. The list goes on.

Okay, it’s not quite the £50k bonus you might get as a banker, but it’ll definitely do.

But when you start hearing people like that say things like that…

7. The minimal holidays

I know what you’re thinking – “Cambridge has way longer holidays than everyone else!!”. Yes, this is true, but as an English lecturer once said, “vacation just means you vacate the premises”.

Christmas holidays = catching up on everything you didn’t do whilst you were too caught up in Bridgemas (and let’s be honest, the entirety of Michaelmas) + revising for mocks (+ Varsity, if you’re lucky enough).

Easter holidays = revising for exams (and this year, getting to grips with how to upload a whole exam paper in 30 minutes).

Summer holidays = summer internship/job + 16 weeks wondering how you’re going to endure another x more years of being a Cambridge student.

This leaves little time to have lots of lie-ins, binge a new series, or meet friends. But why would I want to meet friends anyway when they’re going to tell me that they only have to do two hours of work a day at their uni…   

Me trying to figure out what the Lagrangian is

8. It’s the best and the worst

Although Michaelmas is the only term I’ve spent in Cambridge, I’ve had some amazing experiences. Okay, the work is very challenging and draining, but the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve learnt have shaped me into who I am today (which is hopefully someone that’s fun, friendly and super employable xxx).

Sometimes there are days where I want to give up on Cambridge completely, but this is usually followed by an above-average piece of supo work, or a night with friends that makes me realise that this is the uni that I want to be at. From watching The Office (UK version, of course), this seems to be what the working world is like – just like Tim, I’m all ready to go somewhere else until I get a promotion and fall in love with Dawn. 

Hey guys, it’s the gang!

So there you have it—my 8 reasons why Cambridge feels like a full-time job. There are plenty of ways that it doesn’t, but that’s for another article… I can’t wait to read this after I graduate, go into employment and realise that Cambridge is absolutely nothing like a full-time job, lol.

Just let me be hopeful in the meantime, please.

Feature image credits: Izzy Porter

All other images author’s own unless otherwise stated

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