Nine Cambridge extracurriculars that will become your entire personality
Whether you’re on the JCR, a member of the Cambridge Union or love the ADC this article is for you
Everyone has that friend who light-heartedly joined a society, club with innocent intentions of making some friends, attending socials, taking a break from work, and maybe getting some exercise. Fast-forward to two weeks later– it’s all they talk about, they’re sleeping in their stash, and your concerns about them being in a cult are met with accusations of anti-cult prejudice.
We at the Tab have put together a definitive (unranked) list of the top nine most ‘immersive’ extracurriculars at the university. Some might argue that the University of Cambridge is in itself a bit cult-like, but we choose to ignore these claims and instead laugh at rowers and other extra-curriculars.
1. Repping a club
It’s a bright Wednesday morning and you roll out of bed because you’ve just heard the ping of a notification. It could be a friend checking in, your parcel having been delivered, or even a cheeky message from your secret crush.
It’s your best mate plugging MASH tickets on the year group-chat for the millionth time this week. Not only has being a club rep subsumed their whole personality, but you also are now not allowed to go for a night out anywhere else. You endure it anyway because they’re a great emergency ticket source and occasionally buy you a pint with the proceeds. And because you love and support them.
2. Literally any choir
Last year, a friend of mine who was a member of a choir was contacted by Test and Trace. When I video-called them in isolation, they admitted to being relieved at the situation as they didn’t have to attend choir rehearsals for a while.
It is undeniable that choirs tend to be extremely high-commitment. Don’t sign up unless you’re prepared to attend 3-5 lengthy rehearsals a week, float around town in long, flowy cassocks, and learn lengthy Latin verses that you wouldn’t be able to distinguish from a paella recipe.
However, giving up on most evening events and signing over your soul to your choir director does have major upsides– you’ll love the ethereal singing, the camaraderie, and the delicious free brunches.
3. Tech crew
As theatre moves back in-person, a black-clothed army of stage managers, a horde of lighting designers, and a swarm of sound designers scuttle around the ADC (and Corpus Playroom, Fitzpatrick Hall etc.) with stepladders and clipboards, doing their best to keep the muffins they brought in safe from the cast.
The often thankless task of adjusting lighting set-ups and cueing sound has, however, a very exciting community to offer. From secret invite-only socials to mysterious formal dinners, Cambridge techies are a tightly bound bunch that know each other, look out for each other, and even help each other network for professional gigs.
The hours are long and often run late into the night, causing springs of conflict with directors of studies and housemates. But the feeling of completing a thorough ‘get out’ after a successful play, the ability to see your designs come to life, and the electric atmosphere of the lighting deck are all hard to beat.
You’ve voted for their Canva-crafted manifesto, now get ready for their open-letter based political career. As unthanked power engines that continually harass college administration with student opinions, JCR officers balance their social lives with a mountain of Outlook notifications.
While this creed comes with the ability to make a real difference, the JCR initiate is also compelled to become a spokesperson for Facebook events that have 3 registered as ‘going’ (including their mum), a navigator of intricate conflicts, a miscellaneous dumping ground for grievances, and a glorified condom delivery-service.
If your friend has fallen victim, be sure to offer them a warm hug and a warm reminder that absolute power corrupts.
5. CU Taylor Swift Appreciation Society
The fury and cohesion of Cambridge Taylor Swift fans are widely recognised. While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating good music, this escalates from a mellow activity to a fully-fledged lifestyle when one begins using Red as a substitute for therapy, communicating their feelings entirely through Taylor Swift lyrics, and listening to Evermore while ethereally wandering around Midsummer’s Common as a scheduled, twice-weekly activity.
That being said, as crazes go this is a (relatively) harmless one. You get to enjoy vibey themed club nights, cosy listening parties, and spectacularly executed emotional highs and lows sung in a rich and melodious voice.
However, friends and acquaintances must remain ever-vigilant– let slip that they think her music is only “kinda nice sometimes” and they will be cornered and besieged with a three-hour monologue on her depth, range, and sparkling personality.
6. The Cambridge Union
Do you have a friend whose sentences sound as if they’ve been put through Google translate five times, speaking in cascading phrases that sound like they were strung together with cello-tape, hope, and a hint of pretentiousness?
Do they attempt to apply Mace debating conventions to a casual conversation about whether to add guacamole to your tacos?
Do they wake from the deepest slumber upon hearing the words “Well I wouldn’t pay £150 for it” to launch into an impassioned retort about “Well I got to see Stephen Fry and you didn’t?”
You might have found yourself a Cambridge Union-ite, and be entitled to financial compensation (for legal reasons, this is a joke).
This sport is so famous for subsuming personalities that we cannot contribute anything new, but only summarize what wiser heads have spewed before. Living in a house of mostly rowers, I am deeply frustrated at being able to personally confirm the accuracy of many stereotypes.
Yes, they do get up at 5 am about 4 times a week. Yes, they do complain constantly about the cold and rain. Yes, their speech is so full of rowing terminology that they sound like absurdly athletic aliens. No, they will not shut up about their newest erg-time (not even if you beg them to).
Admittedly, boat clubs often throw spectacular socials and are a great way to bond with others and get fit. They are also a good way to get cute pictures for Instagram with your cheeks painted in college colours for the races. While compelling, in my opinion, these are not good enough reasons to sell away your soul, body, and time.
My opinion may be biased by the fact that I can’t remember the last time I woke up before 10 and still think of ‘coxes’ as a kind of apple. Nonetheless, the Tab would like to urge potential rowers to very very carefully consider the full implications of their decision.
Although I personally have limited experience with this sport and its worshippers, sources inform me that the rivalry between college teams can get highly heated, rugby socials often have interesting energy, group chats contain all the college gossip, and Cambridge Blues achieve god-like status.
I have also been informed that university-level rugby holds practice so often that you will have no time to socialize outside of rugby gear. This may, of course, be an advantage rather than a con for those who consider shorts and stale sweat to be the hottest new look.
9. The Tab
It isn’t a problem if this becomes your whole personality– the Tab is the best personality it is possible for an individual to have. You’ll know we have you in our clutches when you start harassing everyone you know for quotes, when you have forced your friends to take embarrassing photos for Facebook engagement, and when anything mildly interesting gets mentally filed under ‘potential article ideas’.
With a tight-knit writing team, exciting socials, gorgeous stash, and incredible professional development opportunities– this is truly the pinnacle of all Cambridge extracurriculars. We’ll soon be releasing writer applications for Lent term, keep your eyes peeled!
The Cambridge Union was contacted for comment.