21st July 2024

A complete guide to surviving your first weeks in Cambridge


When I arrived as a fresher two years ago I was scared and wracked with questions. ‘What will it be like? Will my room be too small? Will I fit in? If I can’t fit into my room will I have to live outside in the rain?’ I know how hard settling in can be but after two years in the bubble I definitely consider Cambridge my seventh home. Here’s my advice on how to have a smooth entry into Cambridge life:

Firstly, get involved in everything straight away. Direct an award-winning play by Sartre, go rowing, play football, join the Tab and start preparing your Union presidency campaign. That’s what I did on my first day here. And I only arrived the day after that. There are so many things to get involved in that most students have never heard of, like the Woodlice Appreciation Society or TCS. These are the best years of your life and I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a busy and fulfilling social life at Cambridge.

However, in reality it is equally crucial for you to focus entirely on work at this point in the term. You and/or your parents worked really hard to get you here so now isn’t the time to throw that all away. If you’ve found yourself attending a pub crawl or wasting an evening at the ADC you need to take a long hard look at yourself. But not too long as you need to get back to the books. Now! When I got past my pathetic desire for trivial socialising and recreational pursuits I became a better, happier Cambridge student.

Having said that, it is obviously imperative that you do have as many friends in college as humanly possible. Do you really want to end up as that one student whose name nobody knows, sitting alone in the buttery every night, pathetically pasting food into your revolting, sweetcorn-specked face? You disgust me. And you will disgust yourself and your loved ones until you are draped in college stash and talking authoritatively about the quality of the bar food at every JCR meeting. No one is more hated in Cambridge than those who don’t engage with their college.

Let me make one thing clear. When I say you should spend all your time in college I obviously don’t mean that you should just be in college all the time. Realistically, if you do make a close group of friends in college the best that can happen is that you latch onto each other like bloodsucking social leeches, only to realise you hate each other five weeks in. And let’s say you manage to get a girl/boyfriend out of it, two terms down the line you’ll be a prisoner in your own college, too scared to go to the library for fear of seeing your ex and their new partner giggling together over a copy of the Karma Sutra. It’ll be like frozen daggers to your heart. Do you want frozen daggers to your heart? I thought not. Stay out of college and make friends elsewhere.

So there you have it. Having a good first few weeks at Cambridge comes down to nothing more than constantly socialising, always working and simultaneously making friends in and out of college. It couldn’t be simpler. Make sure to follow my advice to the letter but never be afraid to do your own thing. Always be yourself but don’t forget to constantly change who you are depending on the context. Life here couldn’t be simpler but if you make a single mistake you will never be happy again. Good luck!