"Imposter syndrome is something I think we can all relate to"Louis Ashworth

With a tantalising two week wait until the promised land of a double bed, lie-ins, and home-cooked meals, I’ve found myself looking back at the last six weeks of my life in Cambridge, which has felt like at least a year.

With the dust finally settling after the chaotic sandstorm of freshers’ week, and transitioning to university life more generally, one thing that has still been circling in my mind is that the more people I meet, the more people from the South I’m introducing myself to. At least from my, admittedly brief, experience so far, Cambridge seems to be saturated with Southerners.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone I’ve met (and I genuinely do mean everyone), have been friendly and down to earth. But starting university is one of the most disruptive episodes in anyone’s life. You are constantly thrust into new social situations and meeting endless amounts of new people.

Looking back, I can wholeheartedly say that the constant buzz of spontaneous chatter has been both intensely nerve-racking and tangibly exciting. However, I have found that amid this crowd of conversation, locating a Northern accent is a hard feat. They are seemingly drowned out by broad ’a’s in wrongly pronounced ‘ba(r)ths.’

I have found myself lost in interactions where the others are engaged in what is apparently their favourite game: ‘lets list all of our mutual friends from north London.’ I understand that London is our country’s largest city, but from what I’ve witnessed it has monopolised Cambridge, reflecting an overrepresented population in desperate need of Northern dilution and more general diversity.

Perhaps I’ve just had to deal with an unfortunately large number of people from London, but seeing three people from the same London school end up in my college friendship group leads me to doubt my experience is an isolated trend. To me, being the only person from my large sixth-form in Sheffield to get into Cambridge, this seems unfathomable. And it leads me to ask the simple question: why?

Is it because students in the North are discouraged from even applying in the first place? Whatever the reason, without scrutinising loads of statistics, on a more subjective level I have felt that Cambridge is an environment where Northern representation is lacking.

I’m not one to take offense if you ’ave a ’laff at the way I pronounce things differently

This may be because there are fewer students from the North who apply to Cambridge, but it’s important that those of us who are here raise our voices and make our (far superior) accents heard. Let’s unite under our collective generosity when it comes to buying drinks on nights out because, let’s be real, this is never reciprocated by anyone south of Leicester. And let’s actively seek ways to increase the number of students from the North applying and being admitted to Cambridge.

It must be said that the students here have been some of the most open-minded and likeable people I’ve met in my life (even the Londoners). But in a way, this makes it worse – I need fuel to feed my innate hatred of everything Southern. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and look at myself whenever I’m enjoying this amazing university and it’s endless opportunities a little too much, and remind myself that I’m still 150 miles south of Sheffield – how good can it really be?

My entrenched bias against the South probably isn’t aided by the fact that the majority of my mates can hop on a 40-minute train back home for the weekend and see their friends and family. And then they still have the audacity to complain about how long it takes to get across London! I would love to see them on the Northern Rail connection from Grantham to Sheffield — literally makes the tube look like a first-class travel experience.


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I’m not one to take offense if you ’ave a ’laff at the way I pronounce things differently. After all, I know how hugely tragic it would be to be from the South and think it out of the ordinary to have a chat with a shopkeeper.

But on a more serious note, I think it can add to feelings of self-doubt and otherness. Imposter syndrome is something I think everyone here can relate to in some form, and if you’re constantly the butt of jokes that single out the way you speak, and derogatory comments are constantly made about where you’re from, then such feelings can intensify.

Reflecting on my first term at university, I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it – everything from the people I’ve met and events I’ve attended to even the relentless reading and weekly essays. It just pains me that so much of it is down to Southerners who seem to suffocate notions of Northern identity.

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