Overheard at Cambridge

You spill the truth on what’s said behind closed doors…

Let’s face it: Cambridge has a reputation. Before coming here, I had heard that everyone at the university is a genius, agonisingly pretentious, and incredibly rich. But what are Cambridge students saying in their own words? We asked students to submit what they’ve overheard on campus to see if there is any truth to the rumours. Do the supposed top students in the country even find time to do anything other than study?

1. Greetings

Let’s start with some of the standard greetings that are apparently in use on campus:

“How are you doing and do you believe in witches?”

“How are you? Is the economy economising?”

What do you think the correct response to these would be?

2. Culture

Students are making their own observations about Cambridge culture:

Person 1: Wouldn’t it be kind of banterous to join a cult?

Person 2: You’re already in one. 


Person 1: You can’t call someone a nerd here. Everyone’s a nerd.

Person 2: Yeah, that’s like the baseline.

(Image credits: Cass Kefford-Joyce)

Person 1: I got sent out of the room for laughing. I felt like I was in school.

Person 2: You are in school.


Person 1: I didn’t think you’d done your undergrad here. You seem fairly normal and not pretentious.

Person 2: No, I am pretentious. You know I’m one of those drug nerds.

3. Oxford

Some rumours do appear to have a grain of truth. Namely the alleged Oxbridge rivalry:

“These f*cking people. These f*cking people being Oxford.”

4. Social Issues

And potentially some of the elitism…

“I could never have voted for Rishi Sunak. He wore a thin-cut suit.”

“He’s from Birmingham. Do they have boarding schools there?”

I’m not sure what any of this says about the so-called intelligence of the population here:

“It’s a bisexual text. I mean bilingual. Bilingual.”

If the genius theory is out, are students living up to this theorized pretentiousness?

“So, I’m in this Instagram photo booth and we’re talking about the workhouse that used to be there.” 

“You can be a communist after the May Ball.”

5. Romance

Onto easier topics. With Valentine’s Day just past us, how has romance been brewing on campus?

Crying girl to her boyfriend: Can you please just check if Jack’s Gelato is open?

Him (angrily): It’s midnight it’s not going to be open.

We all know what it’s like when the late-night Jack’s craving hits. If your partner can’t support you in that, they’re not the one.

“They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re exclusive and they’ve said I love you but there’s no title. They’re not like dating-dating.”

Sounds like a great setup.

(Image credits: Cass Kefford-Joyce)

On the phone: (in a very neutral tone)

“Hello. What – you’re pregnant?”

The words everyone longs to hear.

And classic words of advice:

“This is why I hate men that are skinnier than me.”

 “Straight guys should come with hazard warnings.”

6. Academia

Unsurprisingly, most of what Cambridge students are talking about are their degrees and the stress of it.

“You just can’t get sick at Cambridge. If you get sick you need rest and if you rest you get stressed. There’s just no time to not be working.”

(Image credits: Cass Kefford-Joyce)

In college common room:

Person 1: I’m going to my supervision now to cry

Person 2: Ok I’m going to stay here and cry here


“I’m looking at my A-level notes for strength trying to remember that I can do maths.”

I think we can all agree these are disturbingly relatable.

Person 1: I came to England to get smacked around.

Person 2: Do you mean academically?

Person 1: Yeah whichever.

I think the Cambridge curriculum can easily be described as emotional and mental battery.


We’ll leave you with this astute observation from someone walking through the town centre.

“You know it is very studenty here.”

Feature image credits: Cass Kefford-Joyce

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