"a walk or cycle to King’s Parade or Market Square can be a lovely reminder of what a beautiful place we study at"Louis Ashworth

Back in November, Varsity published an article about how time moves differently in this strange Harry Potter town, and I couldn’t agree more. As a first-year student, the most prominent thing during Michaelmas was just how fast the time went. Yet, at the same time, a few hours could feel like days.

Even now, looking back over Michaelmas, I’m struck by how much happened in Freshers’, and the following first few weeks. Weekly trips to Wednesday Cindies all blur into one, alongside lectures and supervisions, because life is just so fast paced that it’s quite literally unfathomable that we cram so much into each disorienting Thursday to Wednesday week.

What’s even scarier is the fact that time seems to be going even faster this term. We have just passed the halfway point of the academic year, and yet it feels like I’ve achieved nothing. Of course, Cambridge’s infamous eight-week terms don’t help. Whether you’re a NatSci with nine-to-five days, or a humanities student with seven books to read in two days, the work is intense, and crammed haphazardly into such a short period. When you’re living life essay deadline to essay deadline, time escapes you. But, with the lead up to university filled with promises of it being ‘the best time in your life,’ there’s an increasingly intrusive nagging feeling that I need to slow down, and enjoy time outside of academia.

“...is it ever possible to truly switch off from your degree – to press the metaphorical pause button?”

Unfortunately, I am a master procrastinator. Just earlier today, one of my flatmates had to actually confiscate my laptop and phone to force me to get on with my reading, as I had spent the whole day re-watching The Good Place…for the third time. However, all this procrastination comes with an unwelcome by-product, whenever I’m not working, there’s a constant niggling feeling that what I really should be doing is making progress on an essay, or finishing my supervision reading. This raises the question, in such a high-pressured environment, is it ever possible to truly switch off from your degree – to press the metaphorical pause button?

The rules on ‘keeping term’ are a reminder that, unlike peers at other universities, we can’t just easily pop home for a weekend. On top of that, our distinct lack of a reading week means that the eight-week term is truly relentless, with the infamous Week Five Blues often acting as a kick when you’re down.

Time outside of contact hours or essay writing is like gold dust, but it’s during these breaks that the most entertaining things tend to happen – when the funniest memories are made through late night YouTube spirals with your flatmate, and drinking too much cheap wine at formals. These are the moments that need to be maximised to perpetuate the cheesy ‘uni days are the best days of your life’ mantra.

I have yet to meet anyone at Cambridge who would be willing to agree to a three-hour break, or a day off work. My friends and I have been saying, practically since Freshers’, that we should go punting, but it’s impossible to get everyone to concede to time away from work. However, it’s pretty much a daily occurrence that a five-minute tea break turns into two hours, and suddenly it’s dinner time, and you spend another hour at hall.

These are the moments when you can enjoy a pause. The loneliness of working away in your room or the library can all merge into one if you’ve had a work-heavy week, but friends will more than likely be in the exact same position.


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Recently, my friends and I have become slightly addicted to trivia games and chamomile tea, which is such a nice way to de-stress. In the past ten days, we have spent a shameful number of hours sitting around the table in our gyp desperately trying to guess the link between various random answers in games of Linkee. Whilst this does sound very tame for student life, it’s important that in such a fast-paced environment, you have something to do in the evenings – aside from essay writing or going clubbing.

Of course, you don’t have to be with friends to press pause on the hustle and bustle of Cambridge life. Simply watching Netflix for a few hours can be both a good reward for doing however much work you’ve achieved that day, or just some time to take for yourself. Getting out of your room can help to detach from a working mindset; a walk or cycle to King’s Parade or Market Square can be a lovely reminder of what a beautiful place we study at, and a quick break from the academic side of uni.

The one thing I can be sure of at Cambridge is that time does pass in a different way here, and pressing pause on the academics is necessary: for self-care, and to create the memories that we’ll (hopefully) fondly look back on when Wednesday Cindies and May Balls are a thing of the past.

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