Thoughts From Cambridge

(a Yorker, a Scot, an Irish girl, a Norwegian and a Londoner walk into an interview…)

I went to Cambridge yesterday for my interview. It went horrifically, thanks (but I don’t mind – I’ve got an offer from another University already, which is where I would have chosen to go if I had offers from both), but I did notice a few peculiar and a few awesome things about both the college I was at – King’s – and the town of Cambridge itself.

1) Cool people do apply to Cambridge

This may have just been because I was at King’s, which has a reputation for being very left-wing, to the extent that they had the flag of the Soviet Union on the wall, but the other applicants were really cool, and as spatially diverse as that sub-heading suggests; it’s unusual that you can ride a train for two hours to get to a place and be considered the most ‘local’ of everyone there.

It’s not just English students either: a guy doing Computer Science was funny, a Law student was brilliantly self-critical and a Medic acknowledged the fact that people don’t apply for Medicine out of a genuine desire to help people, but just because you can make more in your first year out of medical school for yourself than my entire family does in a year.

I honestly had a great time hanging out with the other applicants, not in the context of Cambridge, and discussing interviews and UCAS stuff with them, but just as people. I really hope they all get into Cambridge (I would appear to have done my very best to give absolutely everyone a better chance of getting in than me after my diabolical interview performance) because they’re cool people, and I want them to do well with whatever they want to. Which is more than I can say for myself; I’m a dick, so deserve no such well-wishing.

2) Fresh people are omnipresent

Fresh people are everywhere, and are identical everywhere. The term is a contraction of the slightly casually racist ‘fresh of the boat’ jibe aimed at people of an Asian descent, and suggests that they have just come over to Britain, because their accents and mannerisms are so wildly different to that of British people, and their English is uncommunicatively perfect because it’s been drilled into them by insanely strict and demanding parents. Think this guy.

These are massive generalisations of course, but a few of these traits were true at Cambridge: some parents refused to leave their kids alone for interviews and stuff because they were set on seeing all of the college for themselves, and deciding if their kid would ‘want’ to go there; I talked to a few Indian guys, all of whom were applying for maths.

This isn’t to say I dislike fresh people (on a practical level they’re a great source of answers for maths homework), as they are often very funny and amiable, but I was surprised to see such an ethnic balance of people at Cambridge; I guess I just assumed the dominance of fresh people was only a thing at my school.

3) One particular bastard

He was applying to Cambridge. He was wearing a University of Cambridge jumper. This was perhaps the greatest example of sucking up to authority I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to a school were asking teachers if they have jobs to do that pupils could do on their behalf was actively encouraged.

I doubt such a jumper of smarminess would help him get the place he wanted – it doesn’t show a particular dedication to the University, as any moron with a torso could wear it, and it just shows resourcefulness that is in no way relevant to the course he was doing. Unless he was applying for a BA in Strategically Appropriate Jumper Selection and Wearing, this jumper only makes him look like a twat. And I hear that course is best taught at Oxford anywho.

4) The pipe in the bathroom

Alongside the two taps in the bath, there was an ominously plain metal pipe, jutting directly out of the wall and pointing down into the bath. It had no tap, and I was unable to interact with it in any way, other than through the medium of blogging.

My first thought as to its purpose was one of surveillance – that Cambridge were watching us in our rooms as part of their meticulous admissions process, presumably because if you have a cheeky wank over the toilet you’re probably not Cambridge material. However, this doesn’t work as the pipe faced down into the bath, meaning it could only spy on my feet if I was showering, or my balls at very specific and irregular intervals if I was bathing, which is somehow a more traumatising prospect than the first idea.

My next idea was that of murder; if they did deem me ‘unsuitable’ by observing my bathroom habits alone, they could easily flood the room with water while I was bathing, and make it look like an accidental death, as it would appear I just left the taps on too long. Although this is more plausible than the pipe being used for spying, the fact that I didn’t drown in hot treacle after my car crash of an interview would disprove this theory.

Or maybe it’s just a pipe that serves no practical purpose, and we should all stop worrying about it.

5) The town of Cambridge has perpetual traffic jams, somehow for both cars and bikes.

Walking from the station to the College, through the town centre, consisted of playing a game of ‘Which Driver Will Crack First and Rear-end The Guy In Front?’ next to the infinite lines of traffic in the city. There are also wide and numerous cycle lanes, presumably because their town’s massive student population cannot collectively afford cars, so bikes will have to do, but these were so full that the bike lanes were full of tailbacks.

This was more of an observation than an outright complaint; I liked being able to cross the road whenever I wanted, because the only threat of being hit was coming from a student on a bike inching along slower than the 6,000-word essay they needed to write that night that they’ve not even started.


6 thoughts on “Thoughts From Cambridge

  1. The higher up in education you go, especially in the not particularly profitable but difficult fields (i.e. science and math), the more foreigners you will see. I think a lot of it has to do with their combination of high value for education and high value for Western education particularly. The research lab I worked in always had the BEST potlucks – not a potato salad or hot dog to be seen.

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