"I never, ever thought that I would meet a group of people ... [who] burn so dazzlingly with their own authenticity and individuality."Nia Griffiths

‘So, why did you want to study ASNC?’ My answer is supremely well-rehearsed after being asked so many times, but it’s no less true: because I’m a linguist, and it offers five challenging (I’m looking at you, old Irish) ancient languages. Because you can study history alongside literature. Because my mum’s background is Gaelic. Because it teaches you about the Britain we have today and how we got here. Because Kate Bush sang a song in Irish and I really, really like Kate Bush – yes, this did make it on to my personal statement.

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!

In Year 13, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy any of my subjects, and felt I had to go to university, but wasn’t keen on the idea. I applied to a mixture of social sciences and liberal arts courses but withdrew all my places before results day. I found myself scrolling through UCAS dejectedly over the following months, still intent on approaching a university application with the utmost caution. It was going to take something special to convince me that uni could be worthwhile. And ASNC is so, so special.

I remember walking into the common room before my interview. A PhD student offered me a cup of tea as I took in the ‘don’t assume someone’s pronouns’ posters on the wall and the Bayeux Tapestry wallpaper running along the top of the walls. I paged through the books that filled the shelves which were also variously dotted with swords, helmets, nuns’ habits, and an axe. What I remember most about my interview is laughing. I don’t remember why or what at, but I remember laughing. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined my interview to be, and it was another indication that maybe I could find a place for myself here.

" I will remember the evenings I legged it to the Castle to make the Friday pub trip, or tipped mead down my top in early attempts at the art of mead-horn drinking."Helena Fox

In the past three years, I have found more of a home in the department than I ever imagined. I will treasure our little haven – the secret corner of the English department where mead horns and pictures of Viking longships provide ample decoration. There is so much I will remember and take with me: laughing hysterically over Bee Movie fanfic and terrible YouTube videos; the stampede to the biscuit tin on hearing someone fill it up; napping on the beanbags in mid-term exhaustion; the calming click of someone’s knitting needles (there is always knitting).

“I will aim to emulate their kindness, humour, and passion in everything. Thank you, ASNC.”

I will remember the Yule Play rehearsals and the months spent singing Uptown Monk. I will remember the trips: to the British Library, to the Isle of Man, to York. I will remember the evenings I legged it to the Castle to make the Friday pub trip, or tipped mead down my top in early attempts at the art of mead-horn drinking. I certainly won’t forget the time we formed a football team and kicked the ball into the river no fewer than three times in the first practice session. I will remember the vast and endlessly entertaining literature (Beowulf is just the beginning), and the brain-frying history lectures, and the impossible grammar lessons, and the mesmerising hours spent in the Parker Library with medieval manuscripts.

And I will remember the people. The ASNaCs are the boldest and most brilliant group of people I could ever have met. For me, some of the difficulties of Cambridge have been eradicated or diminished by our community, and by the academics who have always cared more about my wellbeing than my productivity and who have provided encouragement, advice, and laughter. I will hold on to evenings of cheap wine and the Medieval Party Mix on YouTube, and the night we sang around a fire on the Isle of Man and taught each other folk songs. I will hold on to the film nights, watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the masterpiece that is St. Patrick: The Irish Legend in tucked away rooms at Robinson.


Mountain View

To the Iris cafe

I will hold on to the impromptu chats at the tea station and to listening to the ASNC Quire singing. I will hold on to the hours spent editing the ASNC magazine (or ‘meme booklet’, as it has, more accurately, been called), grinning to myself in my room. I will hold on to the feeling of summer, dragging the heavy hamper down the Leckhampton driveway for a picnic lunch and a swim. I will hold on to the fire in the voices and eyes of my peers as they argued over which is the best Norse saga, or Anglo-Saxon king, or Welsh poem. I will hold on to when my academics told me that there are more important things than exams, and other ways to learn than essays, and all the times they have said they are here for us, and meant it.

‘But aren’t you lonely, being the only ASNC at your College?’

How could I ever be?

I never thought that I would be able to read medieval Irish, or that I’d be translating Anglo-Latin poetry, or learning linguistics. And I never, ever thought that I would meet a group of people – students and academics alike – who I feel such an affinity with, but who, at the same time, burn so dazzlingly with their own authenticity and individuality. I will aim to emulate their kindness, humour, and passion in everything. Thank you, ASNC.

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