Hitting the headlines
Take a moment to think back about the summer you were waiting for your GCSE results (Sorry international students). What were you doing that summer? Personally, I was at Christ College in Cambridge a place I still walk past everyday on the way to work and still fondly remember the Wi-Fi password for. I wasn't there just out of a tourist curiosity as many people are, after all Blythe building is gorgeous, I was there with dozens of other teenagers waiting for GCSE results none of which I had known a week before.
We were all students from a widening participation scheme that had come to Cambridge to see what it was like to be a student there. This was part of a 2 year long scheme, our cohort being the first to do it in this longer stretch, And this first weeklong stay at Christ's College treated us to little lectures in subjects of our choice (mine was biology, they didn’t have psychology), a formal dinner, and tips on how to get in from the admissions officer. In our second shorter stay at Murray Edwards, they would also tell us how to write our personal statements, and we would receive back and forth feedback for weeks, months even, until the October deadline for Oxbridge rolled in and we have to send off our UCAS applications.
Basically, we had been identified as people who could get in despite our background. Coming from a school where nobody went to university or if they did they went to one with an unconditional offer system, applying to Cambridge was something big. Massive even. Literally newsworthy, as my plans to apply after attending this summer school was splashed all over the local newspaper. Looking back now it's strange to see how many of us applied and how many did actually get in. Off the top of my head I can think of two and two alone. Despite having two offers from Newnham college myself, I narrowly missed the grade boundaries and didn’t get through summer pooling, my exam marks not being released to the college until too late in the day. This is how I ended up here, at Bath.
Flash forward to 2021
I am on a double placement with the University of Cambridge where in both of my supervisors are a part of the same college I applied to, and one was even an interviewer. Now this, I’m very aware, is very strange. Imagine that when you have placement meetings, the same person asking you about the statistics you’ve found for the newsletter was the same to show (absolutely terrified) you some brand new to you statistics four years prior. Can't a lot change with a little time? Writing this post I really don't know what to focus on. There is an odd, sometimes sickeningly sweet, sense of nostalgia – “Oh, this is where we saw the college cat”, “this is where we waited with a brand new, but now very old, friend to catch his bus back home”, “This is the court where we all took a photo together right by where we all had a formal together”. It's strange most of all to know all these odd little facts about a university you never actually went to - how the formal dinner invitations work , what a supervision actually is, about the personality of all the different colleges.
No regrets - I belong at Bath
One thing I don't feel however, is regret.
It's easy to think “oh, I could have been here. The people I meet at societies could have been friends that would have stuck with me for those three years. I could have invited my parents to formal dinners. I wonder what it would all be like if this one thing was different.”. but that isn't what I normally think, and after the initial weird transient feeling I had in September cleared, I realised that being here on placement was the best mix for me. Think about it. Here I am, affiliated with the University as the Summer School operators had hoped; but with a firm attitude that I belong at Bath (and believe me, I am BUZZED to be living with my friends again when I go back for final year), and get to experience Cambridge without the stress of multiple weekly essays, having to measure up to those who had a better start than me, and juggling a workload the likes of which I have never seen anyone else take on before.
When I was 15, getting to Cambridge was a thing of hope, and now I'm here, I couldn't be happier that things worked out just the way they did.