“As I looked at Kermit staring despondently at his reflection, I couldn’t help but find it a bit too relatable”Becky, via Memebridge

 

Emma Toms: The Great Divide?

After eight weeks of caffeine-fuelled library shifts, edgy club nights, and black tie parties, there is nothing more that a Cantab wants than to escape the bubble, cheerily ignoring work for the first few weeks of the lengthy holidays. But while we all need a break from this intensity, this part of Cambridge life has caused many an existential crisis concerning how differently we navigate our home lives from uni, as if we are ‘living a lie’ in one of them.

This self-examination has even been addressed by our beloved internet community, Memebridge. As I looked at Kermit staring despondently at his reflection, hoping to find his true self in his quarter-life crisis, I couldn’t help but find it a bit too relatable (as most quality memes are, to be fair) – not just concerning my adjustment to Cambridge, but also travelling to and from America to stay with my family, constantly seeming to change personae. But, although we significantly adapt our lives for months at a time, do we really create new identities for ourselves?

Undoubtedly, we behave differently in our home environments to how we behave in Cambridge (unless you can still find a reason to rock up to Sainsbury’s in your gown, or you live within walking distance of a student theatre). This is partly because our social groups change significantly between the two places, as it’s only natural to reflect the habits of whoever you’re with. I, for one, never discuss ‘wavy garms’ or ‘supos’ with my home friends, and beyond the bubble I haven’t found an Arcsoc/Opera Soc/Whatever-Soc. But even changing location, simply being in another place and immersed in another culture (if you count the Cambridge student sphere as a culture of its own) can bring out different qualities in a person, and it has a lasting impact.

"So enjoy your time in the bubble, and let whatever parts of you that enjoy and thrive in Cambridge come to the forefront"

While places most noticeably affect our opinions on physical, tangible things – whether it’s an affinity for or an aversion to the meals at your local restaurant or the architecture that surrounded you as a child – our experiences with the physical and cultural make-up of our towns also influence us in deeper ways. They have the potential to shape of our values, outlooks, and ambitions, and naturally draw out different traits after spending time there. That’s why it’s so common to feel some nostalgic loyalty for the places we’ve called home – or maybe that’s just the patriotism I’ve low-key kept from my time in America (which actually kind of demonstrates my point?).

We all carry pieces of places with us, and altogether they contribute to one’s identity – and there is something special about Cambridge which makes this felt more strongly. So enjoy your time in the bubble, and let whatever parts of you that enjoy and thrive in Cambridge come to the forefront – it’s just one of the many places and factors that should be embraced as part of your identity, and not a façade as Memebridge might claim.

Grace Robinson: Does Cambridge Define You?

For many adolescents growing up all over the country, attending Oxbridge is merely something of a pipe dream, a distant and unattainable goal that was only once reached by your mum’s friend’s daughter’s friend’s brother who must have been really, really, clever because people you know just don’t get into Cambridge.

“From the minute you open the letter, it goes without saying that you automatically gain the hallowed status of a ‘Cambridge student’”Frank C. Müller

So, what happens when you do? And how does it affect you? Do you let Cambridge define you? From the minute you open the letter that grants you admission into the cobbled, coveted world of Cambridge, it goes without saying that you automatically gain the hallowed status of a ‘Cambridge student’. Coming from a relatively small town in the North, it became customary that I received reactions varying between ‘oh, wow’ and ‘you’ll be far too posh to interact with us soon’ on telling people where I go to university.

Preconceived (and misinformed) stereotypes of Oxbridge and its typical student among smaller communities can result in a shift in people’s perception towards you, imposing you with a status which you neither want nor are able to identify with: spending a few months at Cambridge does not mean that I’m going to return home for Christmas with a bottle of port, having donned a pair of riding boots and thinking I’m too good for my old life.

That said, however, it can often be difficult to retain a sense of self when shifting between normality and the hallowed halls of this infamous bubble, especially at first. Arriving from a background where attending Oxbridge is hardly commonplace, it could be easy to be bowled over and swallowed up by the lush extravagance of the place and the way of life here: who knew that drinking societies and swaps actually existed and weren’t just a plot line in The Riot Club? Finding the line between allowing your university experience to shape your personality and not letting it change you can be a struggle.

The question of identity with regards to Cambridge also works both ways, and alongside the question of letting university influence your identity is that of your ‘Cambridge identity’: who will you be in this microcosm? As a frightened, leaflet-laden first-year wandering around the Freshers’ Fair, it can seem that if you don’t join try out for the Footlights right this minute, you will have missed any chance you ever had of becoming the next Emma Thompson, or even of trying out acting at all. There is, however, plenty of time to figure out how will you fit into this new world.

On arriving here, I was so determined not to let Cambridge change me that my stubbornness nearly prevented me from embracing life here to the full. I have since realised, however, that you can find a way to fit Cambridge into your already-established identity while figuring out how you will establish an identity here.

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