Jack's Gelato providing a serotonin and glucose boost in exam termELLA TASKER WITH PERMISSION FOR VARSITY

The two words, ‘university finals’, seem to carry an awful lot of weight to them. Especially in a degree structured like mine, where I am one of the last MML cohorts for which only our final year ‘counts’ towards our degree, this term seems to be crunch-time. And because of that, when arriving back in Cambridge for Easter term, I’d set myself very low expectations for life until exams were over. But no expectations have allowed me to appreciate the little things a bit more than usual.

I remember before starting my degree, my mum always warned me that final year would be the hardest. She recounted tales of sleepless nights getting her final pieces together for her final-year fashion-design degree projects, alongside the struggles of choosing a dissertation topic, let alone writing it. Her advice was do something you enjoy—after having written about the effect of the colour of footballers’ shirts on their behaviour, despite hating football. So entering this final term of Cambridge, I knew that things weren’t going to be plain sailing.

“She said it was nothing, but to me, in these moments of revision, it meant everything”

Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t loved the long days in the Law Library nor will I romanticise this exam season. But, by entering the term with no expectations, I’ve enjoyed these last few weeks a little more than I expected. It often feels like in the Cambridge bubble of Michaelmas and Lent, there’s such a pressure to “make the most of things”, go to as many formals as possible, say “yes” to every night-out, and live all these quintessential Cambridge experiences to their fullest potential. This exam term, there seems to be a general consensus that people will just be “doing less” of that until exams are over and as a result, I’ve found myself appreciating small moments that perhaps would have been overlooked in Michaelmas or Lent.

It’s the little things like stepping out of the Squire Library and laying on the grass with your friends for a bit of a break, appreciating the sun’s warmth on your skin, for a moment forgetting about the work you’ve left behind. Or having dinner with your friends for an evening, chatting about your plans for May Week, what you might wear, and again distracting yourself from the work that seemed a bit too all-consuming an hour prior. When I’m out and about in town, I’ve found myself smiling at things I previously wouldn’t have noticed while rushing around to get to my next supervision: a child running up to their parent smiling, a couple going to hold each other’s hand, two friends laughing together — little moments of joy that previously have gone unnoticed.


Mountain View

At breaking point? Alternative break spots around Sidgwick

Whilst Michaelmas and Lent both provide their own intense spells of work, in exam season there seems to be a greater genuine care for one another. In supervisions, I’ve had supervisors surprisingly asking, and perhaps genuinely caring, about how things are going and wishing us luck, seeming to want us to do well over the next few weeks. People seem to look out for each other just that bit more because there is a general sense of “we’re all going through it”. Even amongst my household (with a mix of us across all year groups) when one another asks “how are you?”, they are asking from a place of caring about the answer, rather than classic British small talk. A postgrad friend of mine cooked me and another friend dinner the other day — she said it was nothing, but to me, in these moments of revision, it meant everything.

Whilst Easter term obviously provides the anticipated celebrations of May Week and the glittering potential of dancing, drinking and laughter which comes with that—it is in these last few weeks of term, and next few weeks of exams, that there have been little moments of unexpected joy. A sunny day, a trip to Jack’s Gelato, a supervisor bringing snacks to the supervision. In the monotony of preparing for exams, these moments take on a new sparkle they wouldn’t normally have. Exam term is hard, there’s no doubt about it. Especially in Cambridge, where academic rigour seems to (unfortunately) take priority, it can sometimes feel a bit like a pressure cooker which really begins to take its mental toll. So, don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for exams to be over—but it’s these little moments which have been getting me through.