"It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. I can’t wait for you to get started."Esmé Kenney for Varsity


Take a minute to realise where you are. You haven’t until now. You’ve got your results, had your summer, packed, and now you’re moving in. But take a minute. Go out onto the balcony and look at where you’ll be living.

Take your time with everything this year. There really is time enough for you to breathe between supos and starting your next essay. If you just slow down, things will seem less stressful. The cliché fear that you will never see anyone you meet in freshers again is simply not true. You meet some great people. And you can survive without an oven — despite your weekly urge to oven cook a pizza. Do some exercise. If you have time to get two iced coffees from the café and walk into town all the way from Robinson, you have time to go to the gym.

There will be setbacks — an essay that didn’t go to plan, ridiculously late nights, the queue at Pret being stupidly long. But right now, take a minute to stop and look at the gardens. Think of how exciting the next three years of your life are going to be; how exciting we’ll make them.

Love from,

Second-year you


My dear first-year Nabiha,

Nabiha's first formalNabiha Ahmed

I understand you’re too busy going between feeling anxious about what’s to come, guilty about what you’ve left behind, and terrified of shared bathrooms to hear anything I have to say. The work will get easier when you realise you’re meant to do the work, and not the other way round. You don’t need to spend four hours to understand a ten page story in Old English — the characters are probably just doing it in a pear tree. Stop sitting in Newnham’s library for four hours only to leave with pictures of the pretty ceiling. Not everyone in Cambridge calls their mum ‘The Dame’ or shops exclusively at M&S. And even if they do, talk to them. They could be fun. Yes, it may be hard to find people both as brown and as broke as you but it will happen. Some of your best friends will be both, one or the other, and even none. Call people more — they miss you a lot. Forgive people earlier — it feels fantastic. And as for the bathrooms, they’re much worse than you think. Suck it up until you get an en-suite, I guess.

Don't wait until Easter to try Jack's Gelato. And stop telling people that you’re dropping out; deep down we both know you won’t give up that easily. In fact, I want to thank you for being so resilient — it paid off. 

Love you always,

Your much more good-looking, wise, and humble second-year self.


“Your identity neither starts nor ends at being a Cambridge student”

Don’t work too hard. Yes, I know, that sounds like terrible advice, but it’s true. Everyone tells you before you start university that three years will fly by and you don’t believe them, but that’s exactly how it goes. And — you’ll learn — the moments that you will remember are not the hours you spent in the library or the lecture you had that Wednesday morning in November. Pay attention to the other parts, the early morning rowing outings, the picnic lunches on Jesus Green, the late-night dinner parties and last minute pub trips. These are the things that you will miss most, not the workload. Understand that they are new and fleeting, even when they come to feel familiar. Hold on tight to the people you meet and the moments you share with them. That’s the best bit.


Ellie's moving in dayEllie Austin

My advice for you, dear baby-fresher Ellie, is to take a moment and breathe. Moving to a new city is hard, starting university is hard, doing Natural Sciences at Cambridge is hard — you can forgive yourself for finding it difficult at first. Lots of things go wrong but these situations are often catalysts for beautiful change and growth, and they also help to bond you with the new people around who come to your aid, so lean into the chaos. The best thing you can do right now is trust yourself and be patient. You’ll make friends, but don’t freak out if it doesn’t all fall into place immediately — my only clue is to seek out interesting conversations, and the rest will come naturally. Time will slip away, as it always does, so take lots of photos, write lots of entries in your journal, and check-point the good moments when you can. Oh, and bring a bike — the roads really aren’t as scary as they seem, and the extra thirty minutes of sleep will make a huge difference to your life.

Lots of love from elderly third-year Ellie.


Your identity neither starts nor ends at being a Cambridge student. Yes, you worked hard to get here, but now everyone you are surrounded by has achieved the same ultimate goal. Embrace all facets of your identity and don’t just accept them: consciously lead your life and university years in a way that ensures you never have to compromise any part of yourself.

“Although I know you haven't seen how all your hard work paid off, just know that it did”

Have fun and laugh a lot. Join societies, talk to strangers, go on dates, go travelling, work a little, and, once in a while, let yourself cry. Recognise when those tears are more than just Week 5 Blues and seek help. Talk to your friends. You might have only just met them, but I promise, they’re still here a year on and are probably struggling with very similar things; their support will help make you the happiest you’ve ever been.

It’s not going to be perfect but you will have experiences and conversations that you can’t even grasp yet, so hold on for the ride. But remember you’re not indestructible and are always allowed to stop. Eat well, drink less, exercise, and listen to music; your body and mind will thank you for years beyond the fleeting three you will spend here.


Lotte at a formal during first yearLotte Brundle

Dear first-year me,

The year ahead will not be the first year you imagined. It will be markedly different in many ways, and yet you are about to have a fantastic time. Although the workload will be, at times, outrageously challenging; and the night-times, especially the first couple, soberingly lonely; you will finally learn what it means to live away from home, and function, for the first time, completely independently. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. I can’t wait for you to get started.

Best of luck!

Lotte x


Dear 18-year-old Hannah,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that Freshers' Week you’re looking forward to? You’ll spend most of it crying down the phone to mum because you don’t understand the essay title for your first supervision. The second essay will also leave you in tears, and you won’t even make it through the third. In fact, you will cry over every essay you write this year – except for the exams, which will be an inexplicable triumph.


Mountain View

A word or two before I go

It’s not all bad, though! You’ll stay in touch with your best friends so don’t worry about that and you’ll make some amazing new ones along the way (hint: don’t be embarrassed to offer a cupcake to the girl on your staircase on moving day). You’ll have intense crushes, accidental first dates, and although we still haven’t had our first kiss yet, you’ll stop worrying about that.

But the truth is that despite all of this, the next few years will be some of the hardest years of your life. It’s going to take all of your strength to muddle through, so I just wanted to say thank you. I owe you everything and although I know you haven't seen how all your hard work paid off, just know that it did.

See you on the other side!