I survived my first term at Cambridge

… and since you haven’t heard anything about it from me until now, it’s time to look back and see what actually happened during the past two months. After applying to Cambridge on a whim and deciding to try and switch triposes a few weeks before matriculation, it was clear my life wouldn’t be too simple at uni. My first term confirmed my suspicions, but I’m lucky enough to still be alive, sane and able to tell you some stories. Cheers to that.

Accurate depiction of me at the end of Michaelmas. Source: Unsplash

I was definitely thrown right into the middle of the action from my first days here: I arrived in college on the 26th of September at about 6 pm, and on the 27th I had an interview to try and switch triposes. After one hour of questioning my life choices aloud and forgetting that friction is a thing, I was sure that I would spend the next four years in the dark corners of the Cavendish Laboratory. To my surprise, though, in the end I’m going to spend the next four years in the maze that is the Engineering Department, a building that looks weirdly similar to my town’s hospital. I sincerely hope that I will be able to find the Structures Laboratory on my own by the end of my final year there.

Despite arriving early solely to take part in the International Freshers’ Week activities, I ended up spending most of my first week in Cambridge shopping for fun stuff, such as shower gel and pillows, and trying to learn how to ride the bike without dying. You can probably tell by now that I’m a really interesting, life of the party type of girl.

I managed to get behind with work from the first week of the first term (talking about great starts), because I a) had to do a summer assignment in five days and b) spent most of the time working on a Lego robot, our first project as engineering students. This taught me that the crux of being an engineer is spending your life on kinda-fun-but-extremely-frustrating-projects, which have in common the fact that they can go horribly wrong in strange ways.

In the beginning, I was convinced that the feared Cambridge workload wasn’t THAT bad, since I was able to solve my examples papers in time for the supervisions in the first few weeks. But then I just woke up one day realising that I have to learn Python on my own and write a report from scratch in like… 2 days, as well as solving the four papers released that week. Thing is, work has an insidious way of building up, which can be easily overlooked if you don’t know what to expect. That’s why now, at the end of Michaelmas, I still haven’t learned everything we’ve been taught in the past weeks’ lectures and I have 3 more examples papers to solve. Fortunately, the Christmas catch-up time vacation is upon us. Hopefully, next term I’ll manage everything better and get back on track (to be read as: I’ll try to get over my Reddit addiction and become a productive member of the society, pinky promise).

From the point of view of making friends and having a life outside the Engineering department, I’d say I’m… fine I guess? I was a bit overwhelmed by all the cool societies present at the Freshers’ Fair, so I just decided to stay in my room all term and see how much free time I’d end up having before getting involved in a society. I’m no pub crawler or social butterfly, but I had the advantage of knowing a second year student who introduced me to his group of friends and, after a few weeks, I fooled some people from my year into befriending me as well.

Overall I’d say the transition to another country and a new education system has been about as smooth as I expected it to be: speaking English all the time was and still is stressful sometimes, procrastinating too much is easy when you don’t have daily homework in the traditional, high school sense and at times you might feel like an outsider because the British are so different (and so many). But even though my first term has had its ups and downs, I’m now pretty confident I’ll be okay in the long run *fingers crossed*.

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