"I started my channel because I wanted to give back the support and joy I received and found in my own experience."Anna Piper-Thompson

Last year, while the whole of the UK was making banana bread along with many other lockdown activities, I started a YouTube channel.

“It is no secret that there is a corner of Youtube full of Cambridge students”

It is no secret that there is a corner of Youtube full of Cambridge students; Cambridge seems to have become a buzzword, a sure-fire way of snapping up views and subscribers. They are immensely popular within the student body, with each college having at least one resident tuber. Even some JCRs are now getting in on the action. More than just an opportunity to flex stash though, or put more footage of our colleges out into the internet ether, YouTube offers a free and entertaining form of access.

As a state-educated student, the second ever from my school to go to Oxbridge, I am unashamed to say that I tuned in to Studytubers for insight and inspiration during my application. I think we are all aware of how daunting Cambridge is, particularly with how its tradition and reputation looms over us, both as applicants and as freshers. As an applicant, Youtube felt like a safe haven, a place to turn to for answers and help, one that made the institution more human, giving it faces, reminding us of the real student body that inhabits Cambridge. It also gives a platform to underrepresented groups of our student body. I do not know who on the other side of that screen may need to see someone like me to trust that they have a chance. I want to normalise that to be a successful student is not synonymous with being a ‘perfect’ one.

“I believe that there are opportunities for better Access through Youtube”

On the practical side of things, Youtube channels are a vault of information for applicants. With entrance exams, for example, many students don’t get support from their schools, or an opportunity for tutoring. This was certainly the case for me when I began preparing for the ELAT. If it was not for YouTube, I would have gone in completely blind. I believe that there are opportunities for better Access through Youtube that are yet untapped. Yes, Cambridge University has their own channel, and their ‘Student Perspectives’ videos, ‘#Get In Cambridge’ series, and ‘The Interview’ video, are incredibly helpful resources. However, there is something that is still distinctly removed and detached about these. They are also unable to be entirely true, in the sense that they are sanitised, stripped back to suit Cambridge’s image. To document our own experiences of Cambridge, on our own terms, is to ultimately help break down barriers that restrict students.

This is why I started the Cambridge:OurUni Project on my own channel (apthompson: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClA1z5zyJrUpwEfYnf0x4tA/videos), which brings together a range of students. I started this project with the aim of making information easily accessible to prospective applicants and offer holders. A sharing of honest information, and helpful advice directly from students, for students. I want to offer a helping hand to students like me, who otherwise would not get as much support as they deserve.


Mountain View

Landscapes of the mind

I started my channel because I wanted to give back the support and joy I received and found in my own experience. If you have ever considered starting a channel, I would highly recommend it – you never know whose life you might change in the process.

Youtube remains inclusive beyond the application process as well. It has the power to bring underrepresented communities together, to connect students between colleges (especially during the heightened division caused by the pandemic), to share stories, share the city, to allow voices to be heard more widely.

Youtube has been a space for community and communication in these isolating times, with a fellow student, Ewan, telling me that “during the lockdown period, study-tubers have been honest about the inevitable whims and wobbles of isolated learning, showing that ambition and success can (and must!) co-exist with self-care and spontaneity”, saying that while vlogs remind him “to get the cue cards out” they also remind him that “it's okay to put them down when we need to.”

On the other side of things, Youtube is fun – that is much of the point. Fun for both those watching, and for those curating. While my channel has only a modest number of subscribers at the time of writing this, I do not really see that as the point. It brings me joy to create these videos, and to hear how people enjoy watching, or being in them. For me, it’s been a form of self-care, a way to channel my time and creative passion into something I love doing, and which grounds my time here in a purpose outside of studying. If it helps even one person, the way others helped me, I will be happy.