“I came to Cambridge with the mindset that I wanted to get the most out of it that I absolutely could"Sam Carling with permission for Varsity

When I sit down with Sam Carling on a sunny Monday at the beginning of Easter term, I’m catching him on a rare free afternoon. We’re sitting outside in Christ’s gardens – it’s peaceful, unlike the frantic schedule he’s about to talk me through. Sam is a third-year NatSci at Christ’s, specialising in Pathology. But that’s not how most people know him. 

He’s been a presence in almost every circle in Cambridge. Not only was he President of Christ’s JCR (twice!), but he’s been the Debates Officer for the Union, Co-Chair of the Labour Club, and is an elected Labour Party City Councillor for Cambridge’s West Chesterton Ward. That’s on top of being an NUS delegate, an elected academic rep for undergraduate biology at the SU Council, and a member of the University Council – the governing trustee board of the University. 

So what does one of his busier days here look like?

"Every day is different", he tells me – it all depends on what time he wakes up.

 Wake up time

“I’m very bad at getting up and going to bed early”. This doesn't shock me. When I was on his Debates Committee at the Union, Sam and I would exchange messages about speaker logistics at 3am – the difference being that I would be coming back from Revs, and Sam was still at his desk.

“I try to schedule things in the morning to get me up”, he says. Breakfast is either a yoghurt or two croissants – “always one or the other. It’s just quick and easy”. 

Getting started

9:30am – A three hour Licensing Committee briefing at 9.30. A regular occurrence as a City Councillor where Sam deals with everything from representing residents to policy work on housing developments. “I was even on the board that approved the Taco Bell on Market square," he says.

1pm – Recording a video with City Council media officers encouraging young people to vote.

On your bike

2pm – A perhaps annoying factor of a busy schedule is the need to commute. After his recording session, Sam cycles to the Sainsbury Laboratory for a meeting of the Council of the School of Biological Sciences. He can't remember the specifics – “it was probably about the University’s new financial policy”, he says, trying to explain it in layman’s terms for the uninitiated (me).  

“My schedule always looks full, but I can always magically find time"


Around 3.30pm, it's time for a bite to eat. He has two go-to meal deals: a coronation chicken sandwich, Fridge Raiders, and a Dr Pepper, or a plant-based hoisin duck wrap. “I used to go and feed ducks a lot when I was a kid”, he tells me, “so I will not eat duck. Ever."

As Vegan Society President, I'm partially thrilled about the duck and partially concerned about the chickens. “I don’t eat much meat at all”, he says earnestly, “only chicken and fish”. I try to stay neutral, and Sam jokingly asks if I’m interviewing him for Varsity or Vegan Society. 


5pm – After catching up on emails, he has yet another City Council meeting which doesn't end until 9.45pm – with a quick McDonalds break in the middle. At my incredulity, he sighs and tells me that council meetings tend to be "in the evening. And long.” 

Degree time?

It's only when he gets home that his degree work begins. “All my lectures are recorded, which makes things a lot easier”, he says. “If they weren’t, there would have been a lot of clashes”. This work often goes on until 2am. 


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He insists not every day is quite as busy as this, but his calendar shows little time to socialise or relax. "Very often, I will just …  not”, he tells me, vaguely guiltily. But everything varies – he’ll often go and join his friends for a few hours in the evening before getting back to work. 

He downplays how busy he is, even in an interview about how busy he is. “My schedule always looks full, but I can always magically find time somehow”, he insists. When I probe whether this extra time possibly comes at the cost of sleep, he admits he only sleeps for five hours due to insomnia.

So why does he do so much? Because he enjoys it. “I came to Cambridge with the mindset that I wanted to get the most out of it that I absolutely could – and I think I’ve done that!”, he tells me, laughing. 

Next year, he’s staying on for postgraduate studies in Cambridge – but will he keep doing extracurriculars? “I’m on University Council next year, I’m on City Council next year, and if I do a PhD I’ll re-run for City Council … I’ll probably keep being an academic rep. Maybe I’ll join the MCR!” I took that as a yes.