A better representation of Cambridge than all the stone and wood-panelling?Power Lai / Unsplash

It is a well-known fact that Cambridge exists in its very own unworldly sphere. The Cambridge Bubble, as it is better known. Like a bubble, it is fragile; it is delicate. One day it will be popped by the harsh realities of the outside world and we will come crashing back down to Earth. But for now it is a womb-like haven where we exist in rather turbulent, floating peace. We do not get gruelling part-time jobs during term time (rather, they are strictly forbidden); we do not contend with the cold realities of the real world. We spend our days talking about Cambridge things to Cambridge people in a lingo no-one outside of our hallowed halls would understand.

However, I would argue that Cambridge is much more than a bubble. In fact, I would rather compare it to a children’s playset. I don’t know how many of you were once surprised with the Christmas miracle of a kiddie play shop, kitchen or post box, courtesy of Fisher Price or other available businesses, but it was certainly a highlight of my childhood years. Plastic milk cartons, tills and cash at the ready – it was time to play grown up and let your booming business grow from the heart of your living room, all to the benefit of your parents’ unenthusiastic participation.

“It’s a training ground for the actual thing, just with soft surfaces and extra padding”

Rather than actually partaking in the gruelling minimum wage of the real world hospitality industry (at least during term), in our spare time we partake in make-believe future career prospects. We play at being politicians, councillors, directors, publishers, actors and journalists. Yes it is real, but it exists in the safety of its own self-contained ecosystem. Alumni pay for our little offices and silly debates so we can pretend (for a brief moment) to be the real deal. It’s a mini training ground for the actual thing, just with soft surfaces and extra padding to protect.

I don’t in any way want to down-play the exceptional achievements I have witnessed by the talents at this university. I, myself, am not exactly one to talk. Anyone who knows me can tell you that Varsity began to consume my entire life over the past year, and in the best way possible. Even now I sit scribbling out this article to be read by a reluctant audience of my friends and parents and (let’s face it) probably nobody else. Playing as Fashion Editor in Lent term, there was really very little difference between the role and the homemade magazines designed by eight-year-old me – only now with a slightly larger audience and marginally better content. And that in those days, setting print by doodling in gel pen around cut-out magazine images of Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez was much much easier than using Adobe InDesign is today. I was basically a Varsity zine-girl in the making.


Mountain View

Reflections on a year in student politics

Yes I might be infantilising, but that doesn’t make these pursuits any less necessary. Coming into Cambridge I was determined to leave with a First. Moving up the levels of colour-coded library book stickers faster than my primary school classmates, I realised from a young age that academia was one thing I was certifiably good at. It soon became imperative for me to excel, particularly when school testing was in question. And so even entering into this very big pond of very big fish I wanted to be the best. But I’ve come to realise that being the best was not quite what I thought it was. Unless the dream you’ve been rehearsing for is academia – plastic quill and textured interactive sing-along book about Freud in hand – then it’s probably best you start begging Father Christmas for a different metaphorical playset. It’s a much greater thing to be in possession of a 2.1 and a LinkedIn-approved certificate of your time in x role on x committee, than a framed First.

Yes it’s a bit silly and it’s all a bit of pretend. But there’s a reason we gift children such stupidly priced toys rather than letting their brains fester into iPad-kid-dom. They teach children how the world works. How to interact with customers, fry a plastic egg, put money in and out of a till. Yes, the silly little articles I spend all my time writing don’t mean much more than my highlighter scrawled “Neons are in this 2012 summer!” children’s magazines (either still hiding out in my mum’s excessive folders or long bio-degraded in the land of paper recycling) but at least I’m learning. And even if it’s meaningless now, hopefully I can make it mean something one day.