As term flies by at Cambridge, it is easy to feel disconnected from the outside worldWilliam Hook / Flickr /

It was the end of term once more and I was on my way home when my dad started talking about soldiers heading to Moscow. Turns out, in the exhilarating but stressful intensity of term-time Cambridge, the Wagner Group mutiny had completely passed me by. Nadine Dorries resigned? Nope, must have had an essay deadline. The Rwanda plan was ruled unlawful? Too busy writing up an article. Gone were the days of A-Level Politics and scouring the news for potential essay examples.

In that moment I was confronted by how frightening it was that the world was going about its business at full pace, and yet it seemed as if I had been standing still the whole time. The motion was only relative; while I was rushing about the centre of town filling my days with exciting (and not so exciting) student activities, the 'real' world of 'real' politics was accelerating right past me.

“When our academic careers are crammed into eight weeks, our responsibilities as citizens can slip through the cracks”

Beneath these feelings lie issues of disconnect and apathy that, while certainly felt by other students, do seem exacerbated here by the traditional structure of full term and its workload. Although when we can find success in both our subject deadlines and our society projects this is gratifying, it can appear to come at the detriment of our societal commitment. When our academic careers are crammed into eight weeks, our responsibilities as citizens can slip through the cracks. This is more than a Cambridge bubble. For some, more alienated from politics at a national or student level, it is a cocoon of survival.

This need for self-preservation mirrors a much wider issue — do we risk sacrificing our mental wellbeing to diligently monitor the 24-hour news cycle? It’s a frightening prospect, when monitoring update after update on Brexit, or the pandemic, or Partygate, leaves us with few reasons to be hopeful. The dilemma then matches a Western privilege to a university one, when it can sometimes feel like we read about catastrophe, rather than experience it ourselves.

Despite this, when faced with strikes and a marking boycott, students across the country and right here in Cambridge turned up in support of the UCU, just as many young people joined the climate strikes not so long ago. Even after the pandemic is supposedly over, we are still living through history and still reeling from our own catastrophe, in the wake of government plans to water down green energy pledges and ongoing industrial disputes.

When met with the uncertainty of the marking boycott, I’m sure many students were also simply trying to get through this stressful time, persevering with revision in the hope that an agreement is reached and they might get a mark after all. Current finalists have had to muddle through vague faculty emails, patronising “end of studies″ ceremonies and job prospects that are still in a perpetual limbo. This in turn, for some, certainly puts cabinet reshuffles and interest rates on the back seat.

“As citizens of our own microcosmic public sphere, many of us are also channelling this energy into creating our own politics”

It is true that a balance has to be struck between being informed as citizens (and more importantly, voters!) and surviving as humans. It is also true that young people are one of the most untapped resources in a political scene that caters to older generations, who are more or less guaranteed to turn out at the polls. We could influence political parties to draft more manifesto pledges around our demands if we become visible to them, and try to overshadow the appeal of lobbyists and their money. The more organised amongst us are certainly using official societies to do so. Yet there is still a difficult balance to be struck between not feeling overwhelmed by current political news, and feeling informed enough to cast a vote in the first place.

This leaves us with what every other adult in the country seems to be doing: make it up as we go along. Try and muster the energy to be dutiful and aware, while also not wasting energy beating ourselves up when we can’t. As citizens of our own microcosmic public sphere, many of us are also channelling this energy into creating our own politics — fighting for our supervisors, holding colleges to account and keeping each other informed. Others are simply soldiering on with a degree in an increasingly pessimistic world, which is also understandable.


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When it can feel like every hour is already filled, all we can do is try to make the 24-hour news cycle work for us, rather than against us. The BBC now only makes an appearance in my morning routine after my emails (and a scroll through Camfess to see what everyone is complaining about). What this could highlight is that we don’t intend to be apolitical. Our politics just might be a bit closer to home, and that’s ok.