Esther in a nest of her beloved STEMsEsther Arthurson with permission for Varsity

I have always attracted a very particular type of person. This is neither a blessing nor a curse: it is simply a reality. The individuals who, over the years, have been swept up by my rather niche gravitational pull have all fitted into these three categories:

  • Male
  • Under 5’5
  • STEMs

Today, while this still largely holds true, I have managed to expand these columns to encompass a marginally wider audience, including other genders and those over the rollercoaster height limit. The final category, however, remains completely unchanged, despite my own stance as a humanities student. For some unexplained yet apparently unshift-able reason, the universe has decreed that I should consistently be surrounded by STEMs, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Is this a unique form of masochism? Or am I one of them at heart? I no longer know, and I’m not sure I want to.

“When one found out my name was Esther, he asked if my parents were chemists”

When I walk into Sidgwick, humanities/hipster central, to attend my few and far between Theology lectures, I feel like a faker and a phony, cowering in the fear that someone will reveal my true identity at any moment – not that their sleuthing need go any further than my lack of skinny scarf and the presence of a jumper with a giant duck on it.

(I would like to take this opportunity to observe that I appear to have a similar effect on ducks as on STEM students. I am not particularly fond of these birds, although cabin fever and a James Veitch sketch led me to order 50 rubber ducks during lockdown. And since then, apparently having achieved “critical duck mass”, as a friend pointed out, people have not stopped bequeathing me with duck-related items, the jumper in question being a case in point. Duck jewellery, duck statues – it’s getting ducking ridiculous.)

Safety first, STEM editionLucas Measures with Permission for Varsity

Where was I? Ah, yes. The Mathmos, the NatScis, the Medics and Engineers. In many ways, the calculator-wielding loves of my life.

“We don’t converse as such; we trade facts”

I’ve noticed certain differences in myself since living with an exclusively STEM cohort. We don’t converse as such; we trade facts. We exchange pieces of information that are often completely unrelated to their predecessors, slotting our contiguous factoids into a montage that resembles a normal conversation but is really like a strange, one-way version of University Challenge, without the questions. When I venture into the real world, I find myself worried that I won’t remember how to engage in casual chit-chat or anything other than the collaborative yet informative monologues to which I have become accustomed.

Living with Earth Scientists meets The ShiningEsther Arthurson with permission for Varsity

There is a large group of humanities students at my college who are sort of the better dressed mirror image to my own friend group. They are lovely individuals, yet I find myself constantly intimidated by them en masse (due to no fault of their own), wondering why I’m not one of them instead of the mother hen of a small army of future scientists. Is there something wrong with me? Is it my ground-zero knowledge of politics, or my fifty-year-old fashion sense, or can they sense the abnormally high volumes of ducks in my possession? Am I not witty enough, not interesting or quirky enough to keep up with their fast-flowing philosophical discussions? Maybe. At times, I almost feel a rival gang sort of mentality towards them, primal instincts kicking in, and have to consult my inner psychologist, who reminds me that I am friends with my people for a reason: it’s not chance, it’s not gravity, and it certainly isn’t masochism – it’s because, shock horror, I actually really like them. I wouldn’t swap them for anyone.


Mountain View

Esther Arthurson: after hearing two year olds chant ‘we want beer’, I’m worried about a new generation of tiny alcoholics

Don’t get me wrong: I am occasionally concerned by their various eccentricities, having seen one of them (an earth scientist) lick the outside of a chapel to find out whether it’s igneous or metamorphic, or the fact that they fill their bookshelves with cereal – my flatmate, on seeing that I’d lined mine with books, asked me with an extremely concerned expression: “Wait, I don’t understand. Where are you going to keep your cereal?” My earth scientist friend’s response when I invited him to an Anything-But-Clothes party was: “I should have enough rocks to cover my necessities.” When one found out my name was Esther, he asked if my parents were chemists. These examples should give you some level of insight into my daily life. And I love it.

Safe to say, I have come to the eventual and inevitable conclusion that the T in STEM stands for Theology after all.