"I know I am just one of a huge number who have benefited from a communal willingness to share knowledge and work together to help realise countless creative visions."Emily Senior

In a University divided by subjects and colleges, finding a shared passion for something outside of the academic and social circles we all move in feels incredibly precious. I remember a conversation with a college friend in first year – at a time when we were both feeling particularly claustrophobic – where she observed that the only three things to seemingly bridge collegiate gaps were sport (at university level), music (at university level) and theatre.

Love Letters to Cambridge

These are tough and uncertain times for us all, and a lot of us are left with little closure. Varsity are launching this series to give a platform to students reflecting on the parts of Cambridge they'll miss the most, and to gain some closure through writing. Just email our Features team with a 150-word pitch with your idea!

I was never good enough at any sport for varsity level and I didn’t bring my clarinet or saxophone with me to Cambridge, but somewhere between the New Cellars of Pembroke College, the shadowy alley housing the Corpus Playroom and the hallowed halls of the ADC Theatre, I managed to find more of a home than my college ever offered.

Cambridge – as a University and as an institution – has drained me more than I ever thought possible: it has sapped me of my enthusiasm for a subject I thought I loved, taken away any awareness of life outside the bubble, and stripped away the mental resilience and coping mechanisms I worked so hard to build up between the ages of 16 and 18. The high-rate at which I had to produce work meant I struggled to find any breathing space to actually take pleasure in my subject, and I struggled to keep up with coursemates who seemed to care less about the content they studied than the grade they would achieve at the end.

"The Cambridge Theatre scene is where, for the first time in my life, I learned what it means to work with and for people rather than against them."Meg Coslett

In the end, I found it too disheartening to be a tiny, insignificant cog in an academic machine intent on topping the Tompkins Table – so I stopped trying. My college became the physical embodiment of that pressure as I spent less and less time there, and it soon lost any association of comfort or security. Leaving it behind feels less like a solemn goodbye and more of a blissful release as I am finally set free from a relationship that has felt toxic for the last three years.

“...we get to watch each other flourish and grow...”

Instead, I sought my refuge in the ADC: in the cushions of the clubroom sofa, in the familiar (read: stale) smell of dressing rooms, in the backstage buzz minutes before the curtain goes up and in the sweaty, tipsy haze of the ADC Bar. These are all places where I found a community – people who identified with being unable to fit into academic pressures of Cambridge. These are the spaces – so supportive of artistic independence, so teeming with people infinitely more skilled and generous than myself – that have kept me in Cambridge for the final year of my degree.

Beyond the ADC, to the college spaces and gardens that play host to May Week Shakespeares and new student writing, there stretches a vast and seemingly unending stream of talent and support. These people will take your hand and jump without ever looking back, will build you up in your creative endeavours until you feel like the sky’s the limit, and will bolster your passion with their own. The generosity of spirit, particularly in the tight-knit community of technicians and designers, is something I never expected to find. I know I am just one of a huge number who have benefited from a communal willingness to share knowledge and work together to help realise countless creative visions.

"...in the theatre I have found enough of the most wonderful, interesting and kind people to build myself a home."Emily Senior

The Cambridge Theatre scene is where, for the first time in my life, I learned what it means to work with and for people rather than against them. The people who inhabit it have taught me more about love and compassion than anything or anyone else in my time at Cambridge. When you care so much about the work you are putting into a production, it becomes impossible not to care for the people involved just as much, often more. In return, we get to watch each other flourish and grow, knowing we will make the most out of whatever life throws at us. If you can manage to find a place in Cambridge which will accept you for who you are and bring out the best side of you, you will always be able to turn the real world to your advantage and find sanctuary somewhere.


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Mountain View

To rowing, perseverance and friends

Looking back now, I can see that I have gained so much more than any sense of academic fulfilment could have given me. I have been humbled again and again by the wealth of talent and support on offer – both on stage and off – and by peers who have believed in each other so strongly that the world seems less scary with them by my side. The countless thank you cards I have written over the last term (let alone the last three years) could never express how grateful I am to everyone who has made Cambridge not just a bearable space, but an immensely rewarding one.

A place is only as good as the people you know in it, and in the theatre I have found enough of the most wonderful, interesting and kind people to build myself a home. It’s a home I am heartbroken to be leaving behind, particularly on such short notice, but it’s time for new inhabitants to take my place and find the best version of themselves under its roof.

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