Theodora von Lichtenstein, Katie Marshall, Aker OkoyeTheodora von Lichtenstein, Katie Marshall, Aker Okoye, Wikimedia Commons

What do an award-winning nature writer, a European princess, a bloke who made tabloid headlines after meeting Meghan Markle, and a BRIT-nominated soprano all have in common? They’ve all started Cambridge, so keep an eye out for these famous freshers.

Aker Okoye, 18, made headlines the world over in 2020 when he told Meghan Markle she was “beautiful” at a school assembly.

Marking International Women’s Day at Aker's school in Dagenham, the Duchess of Sussex invited a “brave young man” to the stage to speak on the day’s importance.  

After a brief exchange of words with the Duchess, head boy Aker Okoye approached the podium where he memorably told his peers: “she really is beautiful”.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Aker told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that he wanted to go on stage to speak about International Women's day because he "wanted to recognise the strong women in his personal life".

Aker achieved three A*’s in Economics, History and Sociology, meeting his offer to study Education at Jesus College.

His sixth form academy, Brampton Manner, tweeted: “Aker achieved A*A*A* and he is off the Jesus College, Cambridge University to study Education. Well done Aker”

Aker does not only excel in the classroom. He was also the Deputy Chair of The London Youth Assembly in 2019/20.

Aker describes in his LinkedIn profile his hope of becoming “a world-leading innovator and an influential creative, facilitating the next generation of trailblazers in both STEM and the creative arts to flourish, two components that lay close to my heart."

Aker told Varsity: "I'm super excited to start, and I still have trouble believing I've made it!! I can't wait to explore a new city, new friends and studying something I'm truly passionate about (and hopefully learn the skills I need to change the world!)".

Dara McAnulty

Dara McAnulty, 18, is an acclaimed writer and environmental activist from Northern Ireland.

Described as “one of the most talented and passionate writers of our era”, he is the youngest person ever to win a major literary prize in the UK.

Dara’s debut book Diary of a Young Naturalist – written in poetic prose – was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

The Observer described his “miraculous memoir” as “profoundly moving” whilst The Times celebrated his “extraordinary diary”.

Dara wrote on his website: “I thought people might like to hear my thoughts, but mostly I wanted to have a journal of sorts, where all my collection of days and moments could be in one place. A place where I could express myself and feel a freedom to ‘speak’, a freedom which life couldn’t quite give me, in real time”.

Dara told Varsity: "I'm really really excited to be starting Cambridge, to be in an environment where I can really [...] focus on studying."

Dara is studying Natural Sciences at Queens’ College.

Katie Marshall

Katie Marshall, 18, is a BRIT award nominated Classical Soprano who has performed throughout the UK and overseas. She was one of only two Classical singers in the UK to get through to the final of the Next Brit Thing at the O2.

Katie released an album titled “Voice Divine” in 2018, a collection of classical, sacred and musical theatre pieces.

A verified twitter user, she has just under 17,000 followers on the platform.

Alongside performing at concerts, proms and special events, she is involved with a number of charities. She is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and the Children’s Air Ambulance as well as a Patron for the Born Free Foundation.

A life-long history fanatic, Katie has featured on many historical podcasts, discussing topics ranging from Elizabethan houses to Tudor fashion.

She recounted an incident to Varsity when she "was reduced to tears" at age 12 upon seeing the "Elizabeth and her people" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, having "spent so long researching [the Elizabethan age] herself".

Katie Marshall with permission for Varsity

Katie is reading History at Newnham College.

Princess Theodora von Lichtenstein 

H.S.H. Princess Theodora von Lichtenstein, 18, is the founder of ‘The Green Teen Team’ (GTT) foundation, whose global projects are focused on empowering young people to take action against climate change.

Teaching about biodiversity in schools and communities, the foundation helps both children and adults learn about the changes they can make in their lives to help save the planet.

Theodora says that “young people are the future”, and that “GTT’s mission is to empower teenagers and young people to make a positive change for the future”.

From summer camps to educational workshops, this is a charity that aims to create a “global community” that can make a difference.

She is not only the founder but an active participant in the foundation’s projects, promoting GTT’s message far and wide.

Most recently, she spent a week in Seychelles, where she signed an agreement with the Seychelles Parks and Gardens Authority as well as the Department of Environment.

From the Purple Community Fund in the Philippines to the GTT x Protect African Lions project, von Liechtenstein is hugely dedicated to her conservation work.

Since setting up the Foundation in 2014, empowering children to speak up has been at the centre of the work she has done, “in a bid to create positive change at grassroots level”.

Princess Theodora told Varsity: “I love being able to work on projects that focus on bringing children and teens closer to their local biodiversity”. She reflected on growing up in the Italian countryside, and tells us that taught her to value the environment and become an ambassador “for the wellbeing of our planet”.

“Thanks to my fortunate upbringing, I was given the opportunity to start volunteering at our local zoological park in Verona and eventually also convinced my head mistress at the time that it would be a great idea for my class to learn more about our local fauna and flora.”

Princess Theodora von Lichtenstein is reading architecture at St. Johns College.