A fresher’s review: What I love about Cambridge

One term in, one fresher’s verdict on all things Cambridge!

Somehow, among seemingly endless lectures, supervisions, homework and the occasional essay thrown in for good measure, I’ve managed to find time to escape the library and explore the city that’ll be my home for the next few years. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot to love!

The Traditions

If you’d told me a year or two ago that I’d love dressing up in a gown and going to formal events, I’d have been stunned. But it’s true! Sure, I might have been panicking and copying what everyone else was doing during the Matriculation Formal – which fork DO you use?

But officially becoming a member of my college, meeting people who genuinely love their subjects and seeing everyone in their robes made for an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. And if I was bewildered by some of the ‘stranger’ traditions like the choir spontaneously breaking into song…well, that’s just all part of the fun, isn’t it?

A once in a lifetime experience…walking across a metre-high bench for the matriculation photo in heels. Truly terrifying. (Image credits: Margaux Sampson)

Cambridge is so steeped in traditions that it’s impossible not to love at least some of them. Just look at the incredible architecture on King’s Parade (which I seem to always take a picture of whenever I walk to Café Nero) or Fitzwilliam’s beloved wicker goat. Fitz truly is the GOAT!

And there’s zero bias from this here Fitzbilly, none whatsoever. I’ve loved experiencing the incredible views from the river, my terrifying yet fascinating supervisions (so many interview flashbacks), the rivalry between colleges (Gryffindor and Slytherin are quaking), formal halls, historic areas…

And somehow, there’s still room for fantastic facilities, decent WiFi and a great range of shops. The latter’s a bit of a double-edged sword, though – I should probably ask for my student loan to be transferred directly to Heffers and Typo at this point!

The stranger things

I’ve even grown to love the things that just. Make. Sense. The Cambridge week inexplicably starts on Thursday (why. just why.), but my timetable still goes from Monday to Friday. The university is somehow self-aware enough of the so-called Cambridge ‘bubble’ that there’s a literal ‘Reality Checkpoint’ in Parker’s Piece.

People will casually walk past you in full academic robes when you’re just on your way to Mainsbury’s. And I’m now confident that the rowing teams are secretly cults – how else are all their members so seemingly cheerful about the early mornings? And the Corpus Clock?…what even is the Corpus Clock?

Why does it exist? Why can’t it consistently perform its sole purpose – telling the time? How does one even tell the time from it? Was it stolen from Gringotts? Is the grasshopper sentient? Is it an intrinsic metaphor for Cambridge student life? Why is it one of my favourite things to see in the centre of town?

…so many questions. (Image credits: Hannah Lilly)

Work hard, play hard!

It’s not just all bizarre traditions, though – people say that Cambridge students work hard and play hard, and that’s definitely true! Even if, like myself, you haven’t explored the Cambridge club scene yet (introverts unite!), there’s still a staggering amount of things you can do in the city. In those brief moments when you’re not selling your soul to a 2000 word essay, at least!

There are so many places you can explore, things to do and fun new activities to try. Plus, there are so many societies within the university to join – I encountered everything from Law to Tolkien at the Freshers’ Fair, so there’s something for everyone, no matter how bizarre. Speaking of, I keep forgetting just how many mailing lists I signed up to until I get seemingly random emails pop up in my inbox – oops! Oh well, it’s always good to try new things…


I mentioned the inter-college rivalry earlier, but can we take a moment to appreciate how unique each one is? I’m always taken aback when I seemingly travel back several centuries whenever I visit people in the central colleges! I love how all the colleges have their individual quirks and identities. From Medwards to Churchill, Trinity to Trinity Hall, King’s to Queen’s and Jesus to Girton, no two colleges are the same, making exploring them even more enjoyable!

The best of old… (Image credits: Hannah Lilly)

…and new! (Image credits: Hannah Lilly)

Variety is the spice of life!

Another thing I also love is the fact that Cambridge as a whole is so varied. One minute you’re in a beautiful park, the next you’re walking through the city centre, or in the middle of one of the most extensive libraries in the world! You’ve got not only all the essential shops a student could need (hello Aldi and Wilkos) but a fantastic range of independent shops as well. I, for one, can definitely recommend Crèpeaffaire for your pancake fix!

Delicious!! (Image credits: Hannah Lilly)

The ultimate proof of superiority against O*ford

And as a bonus? All of this helps me win my debate (though it’s not much of one) with my O*ford friend/worst enemy (same difference) that Cambridge is vastly superior to the Other Place. It’s time for them to acknowledge the undeniable truth…and their lack of a wondrous abstract grasshopper clock.


I’ve only been here a term and have already fallen in love with this city and all it has to offer, but I know there’ll still be so much to do and discover throughout my time here. I still haven’t been punting yet – gasp! So please give any recommendations you have to this fresher – something has to get me out of my room occasionally!

Cover Image: Hannah Lilly

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