Bringing some home comforts can help alleviate homesicknessBella Biddle

From being late to Matriculation to experiencing imposter syndrome, Freshers' Week can throw up numerous hurdles. Worry not, as those who have been through it (and more) offer their top advice for freshers arriving to Cambridge.

Bring some home comforts

Between keeping up with a packed freshers’ timetable and trying desperately to form new friendships, you won’t get very many evenings to yourself in Freshers’ Week. But when the buzz subsides and you finally get some down time, you may find that homesickness kicks in – this is when you’ll need some home comforts to ground you. Grabbing a battered copy of my favourite book, filling up a water bottle from home, and even throwing on an old hoodie were all little things that made quieter nights feel less lonely.

– Maia Wyn Davies

Remember, everyone else wants to make friends too

Freshers week is full of large-scale events in which you’ll be surrounded by huge groups of new students all equally buzzing with the stress and excitement prompted by the move to University. These kinds of events can be amazing, and really enjoyable, but often you can only really start to get to know people in a smaller, quieter environment.

So, ask someone over for a cup of tea. At worst, you’ll just have to struggle through a slightly awkward conversation for half an hour, but there’s so much to be gained. Some of my best friends at university have been those people I frantically invited to come over and try something from my (arguably, much too large) collection of tea.

Asking someone to hang out with you isn’t ‘weird’ or ‘desperate,’ whether it’s your third day or your third year here. Everyone else is just as eager to make new friends as you are.

– Stephanie Stacey

Bella Biddle

For goodness sake — set an alarm!

It was my first morning at King’s, and I rolled over to the sound of my ringing phone. Adjusting to the fact that I was now a university student, I rolled over and checked the time.

10:30. Matriculation began in the chapel at 10:00.

Two missed calls and a voicemail from the Senior Tutor’s assistant gently enquiring if I planned on attending matriculation confirmed my worst fears: I was late on my first day. Jumping out of bed quicker than you could say ‘sign up to our mailing list,' I pulled on my clothes and tore across King’s front lawn, my unbrushed hair billowing in the wind. As I burst into one of the largest chapels in Europe, the eyes of all my peers turned on me, with fellows and students lining each side of my walk of shame. It was deathly silent, my face was burning, and to top it all off, I nearly crashed into the provost as I took my seat. The next few months I was referred to as ‘the girl who was late to matriculation.’

So my advice to freshers: for goodness sake, set an alarm!

– Chloe Bayliss

Get a doorstop

One of the best pieces of advice I was given before Freshers’ Week was relatively simple - bring a doorstop. Leaving my door open during the first few weeks of term was a stress-free way to force myself to talk to my neighbours without needing to gather up the courage to knock on their doors all their time — instead a doorstop provided an easy way to signal to them that I was free and happy to chat.

– Kiran Khanom

Venture out to new libraries

There’s over 100 libraries in Cambridge, yet I spent much of my first year frequenting only two of them. Come second year, however, and I decided to venture out beyond my college and faculty. What I discovered was a simple solution to switch up work habits: especially during exam term, changing libraries becoming an easy way to break up the monotony of revision. Working somewhere where you don’t recognise anyone is also a sure-fire way to improve your focus, free from distractions and the temptation to talk to friends.

Oh and don’t neglect the UL (University Library): it may seem imposing, but for arts students in particular it is an invaluable tool.

– Isobel Bickersteth

Bella Biddle

Get some sleep!

Although Cambridge terms are short, they can really be quite tiring – your first term even more so. One of the most important things you can do is make sure you look after yourself, and getting enough sleep is key here.

– Lois Wright

Don’t be afraid to say ‘maybe’

Students get a lot of conflicting advice about making the most of opportunities at uni - I’ve been told to say ‘yes’ to everything, to throw myself in at the deep end and try things I never imagined I could. “You only get to do this once!” they say. The understandable reaction to this is guidance on learning to say no — to be able to turn things down without guilt or FOMO.


Mountain View

Long distance is a foe that I’ve finally conquered

‘Yes’ and ‘no’ sound clean and decisive, but I find myself using both as defensive devices, so I don’t have to think about what I really want. ‘Maybe’ is sometimes seen as the flake’s ‘no,’ from someone who was always secretly planning on bailing. To be more honest with others and myself, I’ve been reclaiming the word. Used right, I think it has a proper, respectable and necessary place in every student’s life. Give people a ‘why,’ if applicable, and a reasonable window for letting them know by, and ‘maybe’ can be just as authoritative and valid a response as its more forceful relations.

Some commitments do require the simple, clear boundaries of a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but going about pretending I always know exactly what I’ll be able or comfortable doing in a week’s time as soon as someone asks me is a stressful illusion I’m no longer trying to keep up.

Anna Stephenson