At some point this week, you will sprint out of a supervision two minutes early. You have yet another ceremony you can’t pronounce which, for reasons unexplained, begins at 5.30pm.

You have forgotten your gown. You pant as you enter your room, ignoring the wasteland left on your floor from last night’s pres. Your trainer lace catches on the cable of your fairy lights the maintenance team will soon steal from you for reasons of fire safety. Maybe the maintenance team is right – the lights come crashing down from your corkboard and careen across your desk, taking with them a Johns-branded plate you stole from a formal, still encrusted with the crumbs of an underwhelming stack of something they called cheesecake (you’ve gotten into the whole pickpocketing-college-merch thing quite quickly), each individual sheet of your unstapled freshers’ guide and every single flyer you took from the freshers’ fair piled on top of it, and your makeup bag (‘unpacked’ onto your desk, since you haven’t figured out the best getting ready area in a room with seemingly universal yellow lighting) onto your desk. You pause for a second. You consider starting to cry. You decide you don’t have time. Gown in hand, you run back out the room.

Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity

Hey. I see you. Not quite configured, not quite integrated. Learning, quickly and chaotically and unevenly. Three introductory lectures, two essays, four club nights (two successful club nights), six forms you haven’t filled out yet. Freshers’ week might not give you the impression of Cambridge you hoped for. This is the point where you realise that rooms from the 1500s can be quite chilly and just because a college once had a famous scientist, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell.

“You have a choice here, to present yourself as vigorously and honestly as possible. Or you can try to impress”

Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity

There are three stages of a ‘rite of passage’, according to Arnold van Gennep. You, my dear first-year, have quite the rite to embark on. We thought we’d give you a taste of what that might look like, and where your wardrobe will fit in.

1. Separation

A withdrawal from your current status and place. Accompanied by behaviour which symbolises detachment.

Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity
Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity

Your move-in outfit may have caused some stress if you’re the kind to overthink first impressions. Needing fashion and function, it can be difficult to mediate between your cutest shirt and the practical realities of moving boxes up and down four flights of stairs (something you’ll quickly learn: nowhere in Cambridge has discovered the remarkable invention of the lift).

2. Liminality

A period between stages. You have left one place and state, but you have not yet been fully configured into the next.

Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity

It’s an odd feeling, dressing for a group of strangers, some of whom might end up your closest friends. Especially when you’re meeting them at 5pm in a college bar straight out of a multiple-hour safeguarding workshop. You have a choice here, to present yourself as vigorously and honestly as possible. Or you can try to impress. I recommend the former – the latter might just come naturally.

3. Incorporation


Mountain View

The unconventional way that you can solve your outfit crises

You complete the rite and assume a new identity, re-entered into society with your new status.

This is the stage we aimed to represent. Incorporation, also known as recovery. With a week of sleep to catch up on and at least seventy names to recollect, your memories of this week will likely be a bit hazy and give you a light shudder every time you think of it for the next three years.

Ruby Cline with permission for Varsity

Feel proud of what you’ve…I won’t be so kind as to call it ‘achieved’, but be proud of what you’ve survived. Only a couple more years of this to go!