I grew up in a little, inconsequential, town called Hinckley in Leicestershire and attended comprehensive co-ed schools my whole life. Despite receiving little support or much good teaching from my school to apply for Cambridge, I gave it a shot and got pooled to Murray Edwards, which has been an amazing opportunity for me! I always loved History, and the teaching at Cambridge really turns what you think about the past inside out- they don’t leave any assumption you have about any topic unchallenged, which I love!
Enjoying my subject
I have particularly enjoyed studying the Roman Empire (which is a lot different from what you learn in year 6 when you have to dress up in togas), the British Civil War and I’m looking forward to completing my dissertation on the subcultures of the Sexual revolution in the UK in the 1960’s and 70’s.. History at Cambridge involves lots of time reading and exploring things on your own, which can be really daunting when you first start as you have no idea what you don’t know! However, it’s not too scary as you always have your supervisor, tutor and Director of Studies, as well as all the other historians, to ask about anything you might get stuck on, and they’re always so helpful. In fact, one of the things I found most exciting about Cambridge was having a (sometimes very famous) Historian talking to you one-on-one in supervisions and actually caring about your opinions on historical events. It’s great because people here are just as enthusiastic as you are and it seems to make all the hard work through the week worthwhile.
My average week consists of attending lectures in the morning Monday to Friday, reading in the afternoons and evenings for the weekly essay and preparing for the weekly supervision, and of course brunch (the best fry up in Cambridge) on Saturday!
Building a social life
There’s so much more to life at Murray Edwards than work, though! Making friends is so easy as you are so close to all the other girls in your year, and the Hill colleges often do events together; so don’t worry about meeting boys either! There are so many societies you can get involved with in Cambridge that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. I’ve been involved in the JCR, the Murray Edwards Living Wage Campaign, writing for The Cambridge Student and our Homeless Action charity, Streetbite. But the best thing I’ve done at Cambridge so far is go to Nepal to teach English in remote villages with the charity CU HELP, and subsequently join the committee to help fundraise following the recent earthquake. Getting involved with things and making friends is so easy in the friendly college environment at Murray Edwards.
The Gateway Programme
The Gateway Programme, something that is unique to Murray Edwards, is amazing. You go to classes throughout the year on study skills and career preparation and earn credits that you can use to apply for funding. I’ve applied for funding these past two years to help me go to Nepal to volunteer, as well as help me fund myself while interning in London. The Gateway programme also offers unique opportunities for work experience, which is great in second year as you’re thinking about what you might do after Uni and all the Gateway staff are really helpful.
The best thing of all about Murray Edwards though, is the support that’s available to you in college. I didn’t think I would need any extra help, but Cambridge can be stressful, or you’re ill- anything can happen during those three years. The support I received from my tutor, my Director of Studies, my friends, the porters and my supervisor after I’d been in hospital, was amazing, and made Cambridge a much friendlier place.
And if you want to study History….
My advice to someone applying to read history is to learn to like reading- and read a lot! In your subjects at A-level, always think about how we know things- who interpreted the sources, what the sources are, and what agendas people have when writing their version of events. Try to talk about history, or even current affairs, with as many people as you can- it’ll give you some idea of what its like to bounce ideas around and debate in a supervision. Especially if you don’t go to a school who sends many people to Cambridge, just keep your enthusiasm for your subject up, and try to engage with it in as many ways as possible. Read around your topics, find the bits that interest you most and question everything!