Inside or outside Cambridge? The choice is yoursDaniel Gayne

Everyone looks forward to finishing their exams, regardless of year group or Tripos part. Easter Term is a relentless blur of oral exams, written exams, prelim exams, practical exams – the list goes on. But finally, as Weeks 6 and 7 come around, people actually begin to finish.

That idea of having no work to do may seem idyllic when you’re in the midst of revision - but suddenly this emptiness can be overwhelming and even terrifying. There seems to be an expectation that everyone should be able to relish these relaxed and empty days, but in fact it’s not always that easy. The idea of living in Cambridge without the degree that I love fills me with anxiety, and I know I’m not the only one. If you too feel this way, here are a few ideas that I’ve been using since finishing my exams which have helped me to begin to combat these feelings.

Visit the places in Cambridge you’ve wanted to go to, but never had the chance…

Starting a project of some kind, potentially totally unrelated to your degree, can be a really effective compromise between productivity and relaxation

When May Week is mentioned, punting is often not far behind, and with good reason – however, Cambridge is also filled with cultural and historic sites, which can be easy to forget during the craziness of term, so the time after exams is the perfect moment to go and explore. The Fitzwilliam Museum contains more than 500,000 artefacts and paintings, which should be more than enough to keep you occupied! But in case you find yourself hungry for more, there are even museums right next door to our lecture theatres; the Museum of Classical Archaeology on the Sidgwick Site, as well as the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, are well worth a visit even if drenched in Cava. Since finishing exams, I’ve paid my first visit to Kettle’s Yard, a house containing countless works of art preserved exactly as it was in the 1970s, creating a peaceful haven in the centre of Cambridge.

…Or visit somewhere outside of Cambridge entirely

Sometimes getting out of Cambridge is just what’s needed after finishing your exams, and while many people choose to spend a few days at home, this isn’t an option for everybody. However, there are plenty of places around Cambridge which make great day trips. Train tickets to Ely cost as little as £3 with a railcard, and the small market town with its impressive cathedral provides a much-needed change of scene, without forcing you to travel miles (it’s only 20 minutes on the train).

Start a project

If you (like me) are someone who prefers to have a routine and something structured with which to fill your time, starting a project of some kind, potentially totally unrelated to your degree, can be a really effective compromise between productivity and relaxation. Is there something you’ve wanted to do or learn about for years, but never had the opportunity? Perhaps you’re going on holiday to a country whose language you don’t speak? These empty days provide the perfect opportunity to start fulfil these desires. I’m going to Portugal this summer, so I’m hoping to learn enough Portuguese to be able to understand some of the signage in Lisbon. I have a friend who has decided to learn Old Norse, and another who’s started updating her blog anew. Nothing is off limits!  

Find ways to structure your leisure time

Some of the first suggestions people give when I say that I’m worried about filling my time after exams include: “Read loads of books!” “Catch up on a TV series!” While some people may be quite happy filling their time in this way, there are just as many people for whom this would feel lonely or unstructured. If this sounds like you, I recommend trying to find a book club or challenge online – there are many on Facebook or Instagram – as this is a way of getting those books read in a structured way. Don’t be afraid to look beyond books as well; I’m hoping to participate in a cinema challenge during June which encourages people to watch the films they’ve been meaning to watch for years, but never got around to.


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Mountain View

Finding my place in the Fitzwilliam Museum

Get organised

For me, and for others I’ve spoken to, being organised has been the key to tackling those feelings of isolation or anxiety that can arise in the days following the end of exams. If you have something you want to do, it’s a good idea to try to arrange it – for instance, if you know you’re going punting as a group on a particular date, it can help the days feel fuller, as well as alleviating the worry that you won’t be able to do everything you want to do in May Week and the weeks preceding. This time of year also provides the ideal moment to reconnect with those friends that you don’t have the chance to see much during term time – whether someone you met on the first day of your course, or an old friend from school, there’s sure to be someone to meet up with. If you’re feeling alone, tell your friends about it – chances are they are feeling the same way.

Above all, the time after exams is undoubtedly a time for celebration and rest; the Cambridge year is tough and provides little time for respite. However, everybody “rests” differently, and I feel that finding a structure for the empty days is the key to enjoying the weeks which follow exams.

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