View from Gonville & CaiusPhoto by Scarlet Rowe

It’s not unusual to come across a uni graduate whose eyes shine with memories of golden summers gone by while they tell us, with much gesticulation, about how uni years are ‘the best you’ll ever get’. They warn you to ‘make the most of them’ because the years will ‘go by in a flash’. I listen to these well-meant words with a very faint (and slightly forced) smile because the truth is that – approaching my halfway point as an undergrad – I just cannot relate. I’m living through these apparently sacred years, and I don’t feel any sense of euphoria or even satisfaction. If this is the best time of my life, it certainly does not feel like it.

“If this is the best time of my life, it certainly does not feel like it”

The obvious thing to say here is that (just in case you missed it) we are living through a pandemic. So it’s not as though our uni years are comparable to those of most graduates. We’ve spent a lot of time at home, which is unusual. This Lent term will be the third term I will have passed mostly in my bedroom wrapped in multiple layers of blankets. As a result of this virtual learning, uni to me is characterised by awkward Teams meetings, frustration at iDiscover, and never-ending emails with ‘best wishes’ and ‘hope this finds you well’ messages which I forget to respond to.

It doesn’t help that talking to friends has become very difficult lately. Facebook messages become tiresome with the constant ‘how are you’ texts and the infuriating inability to really move beyond them. Lots of us are living in an in-between-state of waiting, waiting, waiting... The main issue with this waiting is that it is oddly draining- but there’s only so much we can talk about how tired we are from doing ‘literally nothing ahha’. There’s also a limit to how much we can reply ‘I’m fine/okay/alright’ (give or take) and ‘I miss you’ before conversation wanes. Besides, it’s practically impossible to convey how you really feel in a few hurried words, especially when your phone is perpetually on 1%. Even when conversations flow seamlessly, I still feel a distinct sense of loneliness at the inevitable ending when I am left to the eerie silence of my room.

To be completely frank, Cambridge feels like a part of my distant past which I don’t feel particularly keen to rediscover. It is filled with large windows which glisten in the sun, fleeting greetings in Market Square and long sleepless nights. So when people at home ask me how I’ve found Cambridge so far, I hardly have the energy to gather the expected enthusiasm and claim that I love it, that it’s great. Instead, I sort of shrug and look awkwardly at the floor, wondering if it ever will just swallow me up. ‘It’s okay, I guess’, I reply, hoping the questioner won’t detect the slight shakiness of my voice.

“And – you never know – maybe I will become one of those nostalgic graduates who label their uni years the best years of their life”

I haven’t quite found my footing in uni yet, and I’m beginning to doubt that I ever will. It upsets me quite a bit that it feels like I’m wasting these years by worrying, especially as I know that quite a few of my friends love their uni experience despite everything 2020 threw at us. They like the independence it gives them, the 1am library trips, and the friends who are there no matter what. I envy them a lot for this; for their ability to make Cambridge a home that they’re proud of. And yet despite its obvious charms, Cambridge isn’t even close to being a ‘home’ for me.


Mountain View

New Year’s Resolutions? Guess what, I have none

Despite the fact that Cambridge is undeniably filled with friendly people, the lack of communal space (no offence to gyps) and the intense workloads make seeing people challenging, even in a non-pandemic world. Last year, people were (understandably) busy a lot of the time, while I’d often find myself facing yet another evening of listlessness. I felt too nervous to try a new society, and too tired to stare at my essay and hope the words would write themselves. In hindsight, this self-inflicted solitude probably wasn’t a wise decision. I’d end up feeling worse for it, knowing that I could have done something but instead I made some tea and walked to the shop where I bought a hot chocolate sachet or something. In hindsight, there were things I could have done to make uni a happier place, but it’s easier said than done when you’re not feeling like your best self anyway.

I still hold onto the hope that Cambridge will (surely?) get better. Perhaps final year will be the year that I learn to love it. Perhaps it will allow me to start afresh, to make Cambridge a place I can truly call home. And – you never know – maybe I will become one of those nostalgic graduates who label their uni years the best years of their life. I’m only halfway through after all, and a lot can change in a year or so.