It feels odd that a little over 2 years ago (2013) I was filling out that awful UCAS form and applying to university. Back then if you'd have told me I'd be going to the University of Cambridge I would have laughed at you. If you take one thing from this blog post, let it be this: believe in yourself. Believe that you can be right where I am now.
So I should probably introduce myself: my name is Luke, I'm currently a second year at Emmanuel College studying medicine. I'm from Sheffield and I attended a state secondary school which was far from ideal. It had major issues being in and out of special measures. The staff were trying hard just to get many of the students to engage enough to pass their subjects. University was a word seldom mentioned and it wasn't until I moved for Sixth Form that Cambridge as a university even manifested itself in my mind.
So why did I apply to Cambridge? A group of students from Emmanuel came to my Sixth Form to do an access talk to de-mystify' Cambridge. It was this talk which gave me the confidence to even dream about Oxbridge. My Sixth Form then sent a group of students to an Oxbridge conference, which I attended and it was here I decided I was going to apply to Cambridge. Did I think I would get in? Not at all but I thought what do I have to lose?' The worst they can do is say no.
Whilst I was quite gung-ho about applying, I did have some concerns about actually coming which I feel are quite common; Cambridge was this seemingly monolithic institution, symbolic of wealth and status. I held the widespread stereotypes that it was full of pretentious, self-absorbed snobs (and that is probably much tamer than anything people from home would say). With all these preconceptions I wondered if I'd be able to fit in or if I'd like it. That's the most important thing I wish I'd known before coming to Cambridge: there is a place for you. I became very close with the people who lived on my staircase (like a corridor in halls of residence, but winding around a staircase); people from all different walks of life. So, yes, there are people who fit the Cambridge stereotype' but there are so many more who don't.
Something that might surprise people is my timetable. It is not 9am-5pm, 6 days a week of contact time. Something I was kind of expecting and actually, 9am-5pm days are very rare for me. An average day might look something like this:
- 9 am: lecture
- 10am-12pm: a lab class or dissection
- 12pm-1pm: lecture
- Supervision at some point in the evening
As you can see, I often finish at 1 pm, some days I might have something in the afternoon but it wasn't as frequent as I expected. In first year many Mondays I only had 1 lecture (at lunchtime). Whilst the timetable may be more relaxed than expected, it does mean there is an onus on students to use time outside of lectures effectively but it does allow pursuit of other activities.
I absolutely love studying at Cambridge, apart from the excellent teaching; I enjoy the history of Cambridge and what it brings to life as a student here. Quirks of college life such as the porters (who man the entrance of college), who are the loveliest and most helpful people you'll ever meet, going to hall for brunch on a lazy Sunday morning with everyone or just simply checking my pidge (a pigeon hole where mail is left) are simple little things which make Cambridge what it is.
I'll end my tirade with a bit of advice. If you're thinking of applying (which I guess you are, reading this) and aren't sure if you should or not, do it. Apply. What's the worst that could happen? You may get rejected but equally, you may just get in. Cambridge has had a profoundly positive effect on my life. Funnily enough, if it wasn't for Cambridge offering me a place, I wouldn't have any offers at all. Take that leap of faith.