Illustration/Odessa Chitty

As a fresher – someone anxiously awaiting and imagining the journey they are about to embark on at a world-renowned university – it is relatively easy to fall into the trap of thinking that socially, Cambridge may not be simple to navigate. Much like the class of 2021, the 2020 cohort of students were faced with multiple lockdowns before and during their initial moments at Cambridge. However, the truth is that despite these challenges, many incredibly resilient friendships have been forged.

Having interviewed peers from the 2020 cohort, I have collated a smorgasbord of tips and tricks for those of you embarking on your new adventure at Cambridge. This covers advice from how to deal with feelings of social anxiety, to ways you can reach out. Hopefully this amalgamation of knowledge proves useful and comforting for our ‘fabulous freshers’.

1.Getting Comfortable

For many of you, move-in day will conjure a mixture of emotions. It is really important that at this time you create a calm and safe space within your room. Make it somewhere you are happy to be in and rest in, especially within the first few days. Let yourself acclimatise. Decorate your room with things that you love, which are familiar and comforting to you. Maybe integrate some soft lighting, like a rock salt lamp, and make sure your bed is comfortable (I suggest getting a mattress topper when – or before – you arrive).

2.Getting un-comfortable

‘I met loads of friends when I started rowing and when concerts started up again.’

Make sure you check out the fresher’s fair and try to join a few societies. Whether you like group sports, gaming, music or dance, societies are a great way to meet people. Truthfully, it’s something that a lot of the 2020 cohort are still working on and I can personally understand how intimidating it is to put yourself in a vulnerable situation like that. However, it is incredibly important to remember that almost everyone there is just as self-conscious and vulnerable as you are. Get out of your head and try to enjoy yourself!


‘Make sure you definitely have a bit of time to yourself each day, even if it’s only an hour or so.’

Don’t socially extend yourself to the detriment of your own mental resilience. Whilst it is incredibly exciting to meet new people, I noticed that forcing myself to stay up with my new friends until the early hours of the morning was not great for me or my social stamina. It is not selfish to need time to yourself. Many introverts recharge when they are on their own. In a rather unorthodox move, I used to take half-hour breathers during get-togethers, just to go on my phone or listen to music. This meant I could re-join my group of friends without feeling such a heavy sense of social fatigue.

“It is not selfish to need time to yourself”

Another hack for recharging is to do some low energy activities with your friends. For me this involved meeting up with one of my close friends, when we were both tired but wanted some company. Often we just had fun watching some non-cerebral TV – favourites of which include Come Dine with Me and Bake off! This enables you to maintain a friendship by spending quality time together, but also does not require too much effort – introvert heaven! One of the great things about Cambridge is that you might find some of your best times going to the buttery with people or grabbing a coffee as a study break.

4.Reach out

On our first night together, my corridor played card games such as Cards Against Humanity. It was incredibly beneficial to how we bonded as friends and not just flatmates. It smoothed over the awkwardness of those first meetings without having to panic and search for things to talk about. Plus, it is a really good laugh!

‘My mum says bring hot chocolate to halls’

There is nothing like a hot drink to help entice people to spend time with you. Bring hot chocolate and on a particularly miserable day make a big batch and hope it lures your corridor to the gyp! In all seriousness if you can bake that’s a great way to bond with your flatmates. Plan a little afternoon tea, or, like my corridor did, make a communal cake every week and everyone will be your BFF.

“A year down the line I can confidently say that I am the happiest I have ever been”

Like many students, I had a huge amount of anxiety associated with the prospect of making friends at university, as I did not have the easiest time trying to do the same at school. A year down the line I can confidently say that I am the happiest I have ever been. At Cambridge I have met incredible, like-minded people, who truly care and are extremely supportive. My main takeaway, and my advice to new students, would be to put yourself out there. Much like the saying ‘the phone works both ways’ you cannot always expect friends to come to you. I acknowledge that this is much easier said than done. It is something that many people, myself included, struggle with. However, if you make the effort with people, they will do the same back. Sometimes, all it takes is simple coffee date for a beautiful friendship to form.

A Short Glossary of Cambridge-isms:


Mountain View

The two faces of Cambridge

BNOC – Big Name On Campus – an infamous individual who has become a household name.

Bop – The Cambridge equivalent of a year 6 disco.

Buttery – Where you can grab some hassle-free food.

DoS – Director of Studies.

Gyp – Cambridge slang for Kitchen.

Pidge – Pidgeon Hole.

Plodge – Porter’s Lodge, normally at the front of college, often frequented in the early hours of the morning when you’ve locked your key card in your room.

Mainsbury’s – Sidney Street Sainsbury’s (in town).

Farawainsbury’s – Eddington Sainsburys (in a parallel universe).