Louis Ashworth

We all raise an eyebrow at the idea of strangers coming into our rooms each morning to empty our bins. We are sceptical of having to live within three miles of a big church to meet residency requirements, and of living in halls for a full three years. It’s not that Cambridge doesn’t prepare you for the real world, it just doesn’t set you up for a smooth transition to being responsible for your own recycling.

The going theory is that They (the University Gods) alleviate the burden of responsibility for our day-to-day lives so that we’ll have more mental energy to pour into our studies. My tinfoil-hatted self is more inclined to believe we’re kept captive in college so that our maintenance loans can be converted to conferencing income. Either way, let’s agree on something. There’s an abundance of lifestyle changes which kick in after you return your gown to Ede & Ravenscroft and become a citizen of the graduate world. Your day-to-day is unlikely to ever be the same.

“Hello, grown-up you. Time to learn which day you need to take the dustbin out and how to boil an egg.”

I bet you’re pretty self-reliant. You cook for yourself a responsible amount, keep your room tidy, and only really rely on the services provided by college because you have a deadline really soon and cooking lentils takes FOREVER. Or because a bedder entering your room is an inescapable fact of Cambridge life. Usually I’d be one of those functional adult human beings, one which cleans and cooks, for about a week at a time. This would be followed by a week of bedroom-carnage and wishing that servery blended their something-wet-on-aubergine vegetarian option so I could shovel it down my gob faster and get back to work. That option goes away now. Hello, grown-up you. Time to learn which day you need to take the dustbin out and how to boil an egg.

My deepest sympathies are with everyone who struggles to manage their own trash in the future. Try saving yourself some faff (and saving the oceans) by producing less rubbish. I do worry about those of us who can’t cook, though. Especially if we’re from households which never taught proper nutritional habits. I also worry about those of us who can but got trained out of the habit by a lack of on-site ovens. I got onto the servery train because I was getting prangy about the state of my internal organs should I continue only to eat food which has been pan-fried on a hob or microwaved.

“Graduation also brings on the end of collegiate communal living. That was kinda hard for me.”

You might want to (re)learn some efficient chef-ing habits. Time is precious when you’re in full-time work, and spending a considerable amount of it cooking can be a frustrating jolt when you count how long you’re left with to watch Netflix before bed. A great gift to give your future self (maybe as an apology for the liver damage) is learning to cook now and mastering meal prepping. Buy some tupperware and bring your home-spun scran to hall if you’re concerned about contracting hermit status. Future you will thank you.

Graduation also brings on the end of collegiate communal living. That was kinda hard for me. Mark-at-the-start-of-his-degree was a bit of a recluse who loved having his close circle close to hand. Mark-at-the-end-of-his-degree was a bit more outgoing and loved that there was a constant cascade of other people available to chat to at any given time. Either way, my college was what I needed. I don’t know where you fall on that spectrum, or if you’re even on it. Maybe for you it only goes as far as not being alone as you work in the college library, and kind of liking that. You will feel the death of the commune to some extent. Seeing your friends will get harder. There will be some people who will slip away. That’s sad.

“You’ll live in uglier buildings in uglier places and wonder why you were so enamoured by the beauty of a city which is mostly just similar shades of beige anyway”

Silver linings though. You’ll keep the good ones. And you’ll fulfil yourself in other ways. If we are similar, then you will reach down the throat of whatever beast in Cambridge swallowed up your hobbies and extra-curricular interests, and you will drag them back up its gullet and out into the sunshine. You might also find that you start to uncouple your love of the subject which brought you here from the horror of studying it full-time. Little by little, you might gather together all of those scattered flecks of interest and find that they still make a picture that you want to see. Gradually, the well-rounded person who had five hundred interests before university, and thought about taking up five hundred more during, emerges out from under the weight of all of the reading lists that crushed it.

As you struggle to fit all of this in around your shiny new grad job, you will realise how many hours you spend at work. You will also realise that you spend enough hours at work to require that your work be something roughly congruent with the rest of your life. That it be in some sense fulfilling, because it’s most of your waking life now. You are capable of finding a job you don’t hate. That’s a very low bar. Have enough self-respect to meet it and you’ll get on okay.


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Mountain View

Treading water after graduation

Graduation puts a different lens over your Student Years, as they’ll soon be known, and encourages a different way of life. You’ll probably party less and wonder if you ever needed to party as much as you did. You’ll live in uglier buildings in uglier places and wonder why you were so enamoured by the beauty of a city which is mostly just similar shades of beige anyway. In other words, your mind will make peace with the fact that you’re no longer a student of Cambridge University. The conveniences and inconveniences transform from things you just bade farewell to into fodder for your stories and nostalgia. Look on the bright side. At least now you can boil an egg.

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