As a high achieving A-level student from a state school, I have been given the opportunity to take part in a special programme called Higher Education Plus (HE+). The programme is run by the University of Cambridge to encourage potential applicants, from less fortunate backgrounds to apply. Enter me.
The journey to Cambridge included a 5 hour and 30 minute drive on a heavily air-conditioned bus. I ended up sitting next to another girl from a different school, who was hoping to study medicine. I spent most of my journey reading my book, listening to music and staring out of the window. We stopped at a service station for a while and ate popcorn and made use of their WiFi. We had been driving for 5 hours before we saw the first sign for Cambridge, which came as a complete relief. As I got off the bus, I felt a little dozy and drowned by the air conditioning. The bus dropped us off at this gorgeous park and the initial surroundings were fantastic.
We were staying at Trinity Hall College, one of the smaller colleges in Cambridge. On arrival we were rushed straight into the dining hall, as we were running about 1 hour and a half behind schedule. We were given food and not particularly nice food either, I asked for a jacket potato and beans (a fairly standard meal) to find beans were rationed so I had to have some horrible spicy courgette instead. You would think that the top university in the UK could provide you with a simple spud and beans, but apparently not. As we ate we received a quick welcome, which was not very grand and welcoming. The welcome was more of a “I’m just going to talk over the sound of knives and forks” as everyone was eating.
After lunch we headed off to a subject talk, I selected Natural Sciences (Biological Physics). For reference the other sessions available were Archaeology or Linguistics. The talk was held in the “Graham Storey Room”, which was just your typical room to be honest. We were in no grand lecture theatre or anything like that! The talk was tedious as I barely could hear the speaker. It was based on Volvox (algae) and we got to have a look at a sample in a glass bottle. We also got a brief history of the microscope which I thought was quite amusing as on the bus, I was reading about the history of the microscope!
The second talk I attended was Veterinary Medicine, which was much better than the first talk. We looked at horses and the types of movement from gallops to trots to canter etc. We looked at cats and how if you drop a cat from a height it will turn and land on its feet. Although it was ‘medicine’ a lot of the talk was quite physics based and how the cat used angular momentum to turn. I am glad I went for veterinary medicine as I was considering going to Natural Sciences (chemistry) instead. However last minute I heard the chemistry was material science based, which put me off a little. The other talk available was English.
Once our minds had been stretched and our knowledge expanded we got the opportunity to check into our rooms. Trinity Hall had two accommodations open one was a modern block a fifteen minute walk away and the other a traditional on site accommodation room. My group was placed on site in the traditional rooms. My room was massive, it had a fireplace, three chairs and two windows. The room was much bigger than any other university room I have seen elsewhere. However the room was old and a little grubby in places. The door on the wardrobe was broken, meaning the door would not remain closed. The door was half painted in two different colours! The door and the walls were suppose to be a cream colour, but the back of the door had white patches where someone had tried to paint over stains. My desk was surprisingly small, I thought Cambridge students were suppose to study a lot, but obviously not. 😉 I was however pleased with my lovely little vanity kit, that basically included free shower gel, shampoo, soap and cotton buds.
We then had some spare time, where we just reflected on life and had a chill. I spent most of the time catching up with fellow students who attended the other talks to find out how they went. From what I understood the archaeology talk sounded surprisingly interesting. Once we had a chatter, we then headed back to the dining hall for dinner. Being vegetarian I ended up with a vegetable pasty, which was rather stodgy and you guessed it more courgette! For pudding I tucked into a sharp berry cheesecake:
Once we had dinned we were taken on a tour of Trinity Hall College itself. We were shown the exterior of the various accommodation, we didn’t go in. We saw the grounds and the garden, which did have some lovely vibrant flowers. We had a quick tour of the college library, which was surprisingly very small. One thing I did notice about the college as a whole was the fact that it seemed a bit dungeon based and attic based as well. A lot of the time I found myself going through tiny archways and down steps into dark dungeon type rooms. We had a browse of the student common room, or what other universities would call the student union. It was of course underground in a dungeon, there was a shabby darts board and a ruined pool table, not splendid and grand. The bar was closed and under refurbishment so we didn’t get a look. The college is river based so we did have a laugh as one of the punts lost its pole in the river!
Our short tour of Trinity Hall was over in less than 15 minutes, it really is a small college. Us girls then decided to hit the town or city as I should say. Some people purchased tourist tops with “Cambridge University” branded on them. I was tempted, however I am already a clothe hoarder, so I managed to restrain myself. We walked around the city and had a look around to get a feel for the area. However the night was drawing in and most of the shops had closed or were closing. We ended up heading back to the college, once back safety we settled in for the night. It was not the most peaceful and refreshing sleeps of my life, I was woken up at 6 am by the sun beaming into my room. Only to find the worlds biggest spider above me, after that there was no lie in for me.
Breakfast consisted of a cooked English breakfast minus the sausage, bacon and egg…..essentially beans on toast. The toffee flavour yogurt was rather nice though. After reflecting on last nights tour of Cambridge we came up with a plan. We had the option to go back out into Cambridge, but this time visit the other colleges. We desperately wanted to visit Kings College, as we had seen it the previous evening and it looked fabulous. We spoke to the porter who let us in to have a look. Kings College was phenomenal, it was absolutely jaw dropping! I was amazed, this is what I thought Cambridge would be like. I was filed with awe and bewildered by the beauty!
We then headed over to Queens College. I wasn’t a huge fan of Queens and I just could not see myself there. The college had a Tudor type theme and some of the buildings looked as if they were suffering from wood worm, even the modern accommodation looked a little grubby in places. The so called “Mathematical Bridge” is awful. The bridge is not mathematical it is actually called the “wooden bridge”. It was not designed by Issac Newton, who was already dead and buried and there were certainly bolts in it! Not impressed.
We had a look around Corpus Christi College, which did have the most friendly porter by far! The porter man was lovely and you could see excitement in his eyes when we told him we were prospective students. The college seemed nice and a close community feel. We could hear people in the common room playing ping-pong and some Taylor Swift music was playing, so a friendly college. We also viewed St Catherine which did have a grand feel to it, not quite as grand as Kings College but still majestic. After browsing a few other colleges we went back to Trinity Hall to do a personal statement workshop. Most of which we already knew and it was more of a reinforcement than learning. The day continued with lunch. Although hot food was available I went for a cheese sandwich and some fruit. Once lunch had finished we headed back to the court yard to have a group photo before heading off.
There we have it a rather long but somehow brief description of my short stay at the top university in the country. My overall impression was that the buildings were rather grand and the scenery was spectacular, although I didn’t go much on the actual talks by the lecturers. Which is fine as nobody goes to Cambridge to learn anyway! 😉