Sidge can still feel daunting if you're unpreparedBen Brown

When I started at Cambridge, just a fresher, I remember feeling a sense of reverence for the third years; these gleaming almost-adults who swanned about college and Sidge with a well-established dress sense and often clutching copies of authors whose names I could barely pronounce. I imagined them to know everything there was to know about their subjects, to be well-versed in all of the intricacies of university life and generally appropriately put together people.

Now, as a third year, the only thing I really know how to do is cheat the coffee machine in hall and get a double shot latte but only be charged for a single. And, to be honest, I didn’t even figure that out for myself, a friend pointed out the flaw in the system to me a few terms ago and I have capitalised on it ever since.

As a third year, the only thing I really know how to do is cheat the coffee machine in hall

Either I had very much idealized the third years when I first started here and none of them ever really had much clue what they were doing. Or, I have in fact failed in obtaining a depressingly large amount of knowledge in the last two years and ought to be far savvier in my subject and my life at Cambridge than I really am.

The answer to this question is not something I particularly want to know.

So, armed with ignorance I move into my final year. And any of my friends will be able to tell you that I took a very relaxed approach to my first two years at Cambridge. The words ‘it doesn’t count anyway’ were frequently heard tripping out of my mouth when academic vigour was side-tracked in favour of general entertainment. However, I always said that in third year I’d get it together: I’d start really working, doing all my reading, going to the lectures, handing essays in early, and not just spend my life desperately searching SparkNotes in hope of an answer for my weekly essay on Renaissance political thought in Marlow’s plays or themes of love and death in E.M. Forster.

You know it's time to sleep when your text starts to melt in front of youBen Brown

I arrived back in the bridge a week ago today. I printed a weekly plan from Excel and stuck it to my desk with bluetack. I spent hours figuring out how to download my lecture timetable and link it to the google calendar on my phone. I set up weekly supervision reminders. I went to the library and acquired an array of books on Greek Tragedy, Shakespearean Tragedy, Modern Tragedy, basically any tragedy I could find. And yet, it is midday on Sunday and I have two essays due for tomorrow morning, neither of which are written and only one of which is dubiously planned.

Now, you may think this is because I’ve just been on the piss all week, revelling in the arrival of a wave of new faces into Cambridge and wasting hours downing VKs on the new light up dance floor in Vinyl – but this is not the case. Yes ok, I went to the Maypole one evening, played a game of college netball and watch the town vs gown rugby, but other than that my adventures this week have been minimal.

I seem to be in much the same predicament as the last two years. Am I just a down-to-the-deadline kind of girl?

I genuinely went to my 10am lecture on ‘why tragedy matters’ and have studiously hauled my way through Aristotle’s Poetics, but even so, I seem to be in much the same predicament as the last two years. Am I just a down-to-the-deadline kind of girl? I don’t think so. I planned on getting these essays done early and apart from watching Press one evening I can’t think of anything particularly indulgent that I did in favour of my essay on The Oresteian Trilogy.

Subsequently, I have come to a realisation. First, second or third year, it doesn’t matter which, you will never be able to be one step ahead of this place. Cambridge is kind of like a cup that constantly refills itself, no matter how much you drink, how much you get through, or how many things you tick off your list, when you remove the cup from your lips there is exactly the same amount that you started with staring back at you. It’s as if someone is always playing a really unamusing trick on you.

But, maybe that’s why the third years always looked so composed, because they had finally come to the realization that you don’t have to try and stay ahead; because no one can, the whole point of this place is that it’s meant to be hard, it supposed to push you. All you have to do is keep up.


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Fine, my essays are not going to be in early, but they’ll just about be in on time. And maybe I’ll never manage to get through the ‘extra further reading’ section of my supervisor’s emails, but I can still manage the basic and further. Unfortunately, by third year, you will not be, just as I am not, some super-human power with the ability to tick everything off your list by the end of every week. But composure and satisfaction ought to be found in your ability to stay afloat; keeping your head above water is really a lot more than half the battle.

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