Regardless of how you spend first year, you'll still see some pretty sights. Who cares whether you see them at 5am from the club or at 9am going to lectures? Eliza Pepper with permission for Varsity


Apparently, it takes 28 days to form a habit – so hopefully, as the first half of Michaelmas draws to a drizzly, dark close, you have already mastered the art of having fun in Cambridge. To many onlookers, the terms fun and Cambridge seem mutually exclusive; how can the metaphysical demands of tripos possibly align with a flourishing social life, rich with extra-curriculars and overpriced club nights?

It may seem odd to consider having fun as something one needs to practice, a skill to be honed. Yet, one may find that after the rigmarole of A-Levels and the baptism of fire that is the first term of first year, you may need some revision. Deadlines are material, serotonin isn’t – and thus, it can be quite easy to be swallowed up by reading lists, the number of trees you’ve planted in your hypothetical productivity forest, and your deep-rooted need for your DoS’ approval.

Thus, while setting good habits in regard to your studies is of course important, finding that work-life balance is probably even more so. For some, fun (in the loosest definition of the term) can be found on a Wednesday and Sunday night, at the bottom of a VK bottle or within a very badly rolled cigarette. Yet, there is also an art to finding fun in the beautifully mundane, and as a groggy, nostalgic second year, I look fondly upon the late-night walks, the impromptu coffee trips, and the number of card games I learnt, then subsequently lost, during my first year.

As the song, and my recent birthday goes, you are not nineteen forever – and neither are you a fresher. So, learn to enjoy the leeway that first year can bring, and find those moments to save your BeReals for (if you are that way inclined.)


Tempting as it is to spawn into your first year at Cambridge with visions of moonlit punting excursions, opinions on which Voi-based transportation will clash the least with your college gown, and perhaps a newfound sonar for whether a building is actually a porters’ lodge or just another avant-garde art installation, there is unfortunately a practical dimension to arriving here: that, although your first year may not matter as much as the years that follow it, this does not mean that it fails to matter at all. At the very least, it is a tad more foundational than those ENTs-team-groupies that somehow manage to stretch “Freshers’ Week" into a year make it out to be. (Please remember that you are not at Euphoria High; you go to Girton.)

The simple reality is that, no matter how tightly you clutch your emotional-support puffer to your chest, your freshman year is never going to be exactly as advertised in the postcards. Instead, try to view it as an opportunity to acclimatise to the peculiar culture and rigorous momentum of this place. Think of it as your academic pilot episode. Those habits that you (begrudgingly) adopt now will come to assist you in your overall Cantabrigian trajectory; the sooner you capture the viewers, the sooner you get to watch the rave reviews pour in. Do retain, however, that this should not come at the expense of your social life. In many ways, the friendships that you carve out for yourself here will be the thing affording you buoyancy when you feel yourself cast most adrift in the Cam (sans punt). But do not punish yourself if things do not instantly click together. There is always second year.


Mountain View

Head to head: Are Potter shops magic or tragic?

In other words, your first year is more than just a prolonged introduction to May Ball dress codes and deciding who to court in the culture wars between Deliveroo and UberEats. Lay it well, and the structure you build during your time at uni will be robust; breeze through it, and you might find yourself facing a shaky edifice in the years to come. As they say in Latin (or maybe the Classicists I know just happen to be very convincing liars), "Initium dimidium facti” — the beginning is half the deed. The start sets the tone, so you may as well make it count(-ish).