Freshers' Perspectives

At the end of their first term at Cambridge, four freshers speak to Pembroke Street about self-discovery and settling in

Uprooting yourself and coming to an entirely new place is a daunting prospect – take it from a Swiss girl who’s never lived outside the small town of Nyon – but there isn’t much that cmpares to coming to Cambridge, a place whose name alone carries a centuries-old weight and prestige.

The stark reality of ‘imposter syndrome’ that is only too recognisable to perfectionists is something many of us struggle with, yet even in the short time I’ve been here, I feel myself being challenged in every way, including on this seeming impasse. Within four weeks, I have not only thrown myself into the most intense period of independent study and essay writing, but equally into friendships, societies and even women’s football!

In diving right into the scary realm of possibility, and dedicating myself to having the fullest experience possible, my fear of falling short is fading into the periphery. The flurry of activity that constitutes the freshers’ experience, while seemingly never-ending, has fully engaged me, body and mind, in all that I undertake – something that IB and A-levels failed to do.

In embracing my ignorance, and recognising that I can learn something from everyone, the act of learning has taken on a new meaning, one which values taking risks rather than ticking a box on a mark scheme.

Most importantly, I’m creating a close-knit family, and where stress and deadlines lurk just around the corner, there are always knocks on my door when I most need them, cups of tea and hugs to fight them off.

Ashling Barmes, History

So far, I am loving Cambridge and particular enjoy the architecture, especially on my walk from Pembroke College to the Cavendish Laboratories which involves passing through King’s College. The formals are also a highlight - the food is excellent and I love the Harry Potter-esque candle lit hall, particularly Halloween formal!

I found the first two weeks went very slowly, I guess as everything was new. However, over the last month, time has seemed to pass progressively faster and I feel surprised that we are already halfway through our first term.

As a physical natsci, I’ve found the Saturday lectures easier to adapt to than I had expected. I’ve also been impressed by the evening talks hosted by the many science societies here. Of the talks I’ve attended so far, they have all been very interesting.

I was surprised at how wide-ranging the Cambridge societies are, and on the first weekend found myself on a lake windsurfing which was something I never expected! Luckily, I had my wetsuit as I brought it for my bop outfit!

Christopher Long, Natural Sciences

I never knew that I could do so much in the span of four weeks before, but I’ve quickly grown to realise that Cambridge’s fast-paced life is only getting started. The crazy thing is that all the anxieties and nerves I had before coming here quickly disappeared when I arrived and realised how amazing Pembroke is, and Cambridge as a whole.

My background and how it doesn’t fit ‘the Cambridge student’ model (which I’ve come to realise doesn’t actually exist) was one of my biggest nerves – would I find people ‘like me?’ The answer is no – I haven’t.

Instead, I’ve met people from different backgrounds who’ve experienced life in many different ways, and I’ve loved every second of it. I mean, it does help that Pembroke is full of the loveliest people I’ve probably ever met – but also from the fact that there are so many opportunities to meet people, be it through sports, ADC theatre nights, clubbing... the list goes on.

I’ve managed to make friends (is that lame to be proud of?) but still constantly meet new people and grow genuine connections with the ones I know. The best part about all of this is that it has literally only been four weeks and I haven’t a clue what’s in store for me for the next three years – I cannot wait!

Amanda Daud, HSPS