"My goal for my fourth and final year is to rip apart my triangle of comfort"Inez Daltrop

I only realised the value of taking breaks from Cambridge at the end of my first year. If you can’t spare a weekend, even a day trip can do the trick. For me, the usual destination was London; I have family there, there is lots to do, and the journey is cheap. If you would rather stay in Cambridge, then a day trip to Ely can be really refreshing, or a walk to Coton or Fen Ditton, or maybe fish and chips on the beach in Cromer. These trips are doable in one day, and can restore you for weeks.  

In my third year, I really got away; I moved to Egypt for my year abroad. I study Arabic and had always been excited for my third year, especially because I knew that my friends would still be in Cambridge when I returned (they all do MML), but by the end of second year I didn’t want to leave Cambridge. I had just solidified long-lasting relationships, and begun last minute ones – sadly, some were with people who were studying other courses and would graduate a year before me.

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Ironically, I spent the summer between my second and third years returning to Cambridge every weekend, getting away from London as much as I could. It was magical to be in Cambridge in the summertime outside of term, even though the city was heaving with European teenagers tripping over cyclists on King’s Parade. It was no longer a source of stress. Cambridge is both heaven and hell, this was something that became clear by Easter term of first year. By April the weather is beautiful, summer is fast approaching, and the days have grown longer. Exams spoil your plans for a while, but in the end the final term of the year is truly the best one. I also found that people got away the most in the final weeks, preparing for over three months away from the Bridge.

If there was a stitch in time and I could speak to my fresher self, I would tell her to leave Cambridge more. This isn’t ground-breaking guidance, but sometimes it’s hard to see when you’re dead-set on building a base at university. In the beginning, I would flee back home to Indonesia as soon as term ended. Although this was an escape in itself, it was not unusual for me to spend at least six of the eight weeks of full term cooped up in my room. I always told myself that leaving was a hassle. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it can be really refreshing to leave — even if it’s for a walk outside the city centre.

Separation from and fondness for the Bridge may seem like opposite ends of a magnetic pole, but they actually go hand-in-hand

Cambridge is a bubble, a pressure cooker even; if you don’t venture out of your comfort zone, then you can grow too attached to it. I grew accustomed to my triangle of comfort during my first two years at Cambridge: King’s, Sidgwick Site and the Sainsbury’s near Sidney Sussex. Everything I needed was within this area, so why venture out? What feels snug and warm at first grows stale and stuffy by Week Five. The den you’ve built yourself morphs into a swamp and now you’re a giant green ogre wallowing in the filthy pile of laundry you’ve been putting off washing because your laundry room has only five working machines for hundreds of students.

I visited Cambridge twice during my year abroad, once in March and the second time in June during May Week. Something I noticed during these trips was how trivial the 'Cambridge life' sounded to me after six months away. Even though I was well aware that I myself was once like this, it still made me think, is this what I sounded like for two whole years? “My ASOS order hasn’t arrived in time for x-themed King’s Bunker event,” “I don’t want to look like I’ve tried too hard for formal hall,” and “That supervision was a bloodbath, I’m quitting university” were all things I said on the regular. Facebook posts on the College JCR page about missing butter knives, people coughing in the library during exam term, or the Provost’s missing cats no longer seemed funny, but a little sad when discussed more than once a week. I know that MML and AMES students often return from their year abroad with their fair share of irritating gap year-esque stories about how their apartment overlooked the Paris skyline or the Great Pyramids, and so on. 


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Phone calls with friends have been my anchor at Cambridge

My goal for my fourth and final year is to rip apart my triangle of comfort. This time last year, it felt as though I was leaving my whole heart behind in Cambridge, and now I feel a similar way about Cairo. Some perspective is necessary in Cambridge, but I’m looking forward to making the most of the time I have left here. I’m excited to leave campus every now and again, to break free and make a run for it. Sometimes a Great Escape is necessary.

Separation from and fondness for the Bridge may seem like opposite ends of a magnetic pole, but they actually go hand-in-hand. Finding a balance between the two can be tricky, but it’s possible. As I think about returning to university and having to relearn the ropes of student life, I’m reminded of a line by Olga Tokarczuk about finding joy in embracing change which I told myself as I left for my year abroad: “change will always be a nobler thing than permanence; that that which is static will degenerate and decay, turn to ash, while that which is in motion is able to last for all eternity.”

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