Meg lives literally surrounded by natural lightming kit wong

Content Note: Brief mention of self-isolation

Lifestyle's series, A Room of One’s Own, looks at Cambridge rooms and the students who inhabit them. For better or worse, we make the places we live in our own. In turn, these spaces — however small, and however temporary — transform us.

Meg and her friends huddle together with steaming cups of tea as they workming kit wong

It’s an odd thing, as a student, to live in rooms that are sometimes far nicer than anywhere you’ve lived in your life —and, for many of us, more aesthetically historic than anywhere we could afford to live in again. Often, the best room you’ll get in your undergrad is in your third or fourth year, adding to the bittersweet note of the final three (or, in this year's case, two) terms. Many of us left our last Cambridge room unexpectedly early; I met Meg before this situation arose, but in hindsight, this fact gives us both mixed feelings.

I’m meeting a third-year Newnham English student, Meg Freeman. With four windows looking out onto extensive college grounds, Meg lives literally surrounded by natural light.

While your bedroom can be seen as the quintessential personal, individual domain (an association only confirmed by medical self-isolation), Meg sees her university room as a fundamentally shared, communal space. As many students do, she chose her accommodation partly based on where a group of friends were balloting, and likes to huddle together with them, cups of tea steaming, as she works.

Meg’s Outlander poster (of a topless man in a kilt, a bang-on period drama touch which only enhances Newnham’s historic charms) showcases the “mummy porn” TV show she bonds over with her actual mother. I find this kind of an interesting reaction to the classic adolescent rebellion spillover student room posters can still, at times, be.

"I’ve managed to make my room a mashup of Cambridge and back home in Leeds"ming kit wong

There’s something a little sweet and more than a bit wholesome about papering your walls with shared history and culture. The things that make you you here are not just highly individual but cross over —they make friends friends, and time with your loved ones pass quickly in mutual fondness, shared references, and laughter.

“I know I’ve peaked with rooms,” she laughs, “but even though I have weird old random furniture [many Newnham rooms have blanket boxes that look oddly coffin-like] here that I’d never have at home or buy myself, I’ve managed to make my room a mashup of Cambridge and back home in Leeds by working in more of a liveable, comfortable look.”

Meg hasn’t always felt so comfortable melding the college’s formal look with the way she likes to live. “What I have found difficult for the past two years living in college is trying to make my room feel like home. Living in old buildings surrounded by antique furniture is often a far cry from what students are used to living in before they come to Cambridge. After all, how many people can say they have a chaise lounge in their bedroom?”

What I have found difficult here is trying to make my Cambridge room feel like home

Meg responds to the dark furniture, regulation curtains and —let’s be honest — the faint boarding school aftertaste in the endless William Morris’d corridors, with pops of colour and plants.

“This year I am living in a large, old room overlooking the gardens and I have loved experimenting with colourful patterned throws, bright pillows, and striking pictures to help the space feel vibrant and, more importantly, to feel a bit more me.”

As well as making her room feel more personal, Meg’s changes also have a positive effect on her mood. “Colour allows me to wake up feeling a little more positive and enables me to be able to work productively in my room without feeling bored staring at four blank walls! As much as I love the old furniture and character of Cambridge rooms, the most important thing for me is injecting a little bit of my own (I like to think, colourful!) character into the space.”


Mountain View

A Room of One's Own: A Cantab in Paris

Founded in the 1871, making it Cambridge’s oldest surviving women’s college, Newnham can’t boast the grandeur of St John’s, or match Peterhouse’s petite antiquity. It doesn’t look much from Sidgwick Avenue, so the spacious serenity of Newnham’s gardens remains a little underused and underrated. You can walk on the grass! There’s an orchard, and a swing!

Meg gets full use out of college grounds and William-Morris-chic interiors as the backdrops to her everyday fashion IG account (run by her adoring Newnham fans).

But the runaway success of the Iris Café here (particularly, apparently, with men) makes me glad there are areas of Newnham that are still overlooked. When Meg looks out of her (yes, four!) windows, most of the time, its peace will reflect back at her, taking her through the stresses and joys of final year.

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