"It feels like we’ve been here a lifetime."Simon Lock

Last term, I was a nervous Fresher. I arrived confused, clueless and out of place. Not knowing which way to go or who to talk to, I had no idea what I would be up against. I started the term wondering if I had made the right decision, but I ended it feeling completely at home among people who were strangers just two months earlier. As we enter January, my feet are firmly grounded and I’m returning to Cambridge with open arms.

It feels like we’ve been here a lifetime. The red bricks of Robinson College make me feel safe and the days don’t seem complete without a rain-soaked, tourist-ridden cycle across the River Cam. Everything that seemed scary is now familiar – so why do I, like many other freshers, still feel so nervous entering second term?

“The fully packed term doesn’t seem feasible from the outside...”

The main difference is that now, for the first time, we know what it is we’re up against. With all the orientation talks and Freshers’ squashes, last term started as a blur and just stayed that way for the next eight weeks. Everything was new and we were stumbling through one day at a time – essay after essay after essay without stopping to take a breath. You don’t realise how much you’re doing until you’re back at home, collapsed on your family sofa trying to understand how you got so much done in so little time.

Experiencing the fast-paced Cambridge term for the first time was like sleep walking and being hyper-awake all at once; coming home is like suddenly realising you’ve been treading water for a long time without even realising it.

Back in October, there were hopes, worries and expectations about what was ahead, but little (if any) way to properly prepare. Now I have the hindsight of the term just passed weighing over me and colouring how I view the next term ahead. Knowing what to expect makes me more at ease in many ways: I know I have friends to go back to, exactly what I need to bring and more or less what is wanted from me academically. However, it simultaneously makes everything far more daunting than before. Sure, there might not be as many social or moving-out-related worries, but the act of returning has its own set of new challenges.


Mountain View

Cambridge’s notoriously short terms aren’t working. Something must change

There’s no longer the excuse of ‘I just got here’ or ‘I didn’t know about the reading list before I arrived’. The transition of still-finding-your-feet to already being 1/9th of the way through your degree and expected to ‘step it up’ from last term is so daunting. Lots of freshers are also coming back to exams and deadlines which serve as a big, bold reminder that this whole ‘degree’ thing isn’t all fun and games. It makes you worry that you wasted your fun first term worrying about work, or wasted your work-time trying to have fun; the realisation that you’ll be permanently juggling both is a difficult one.

The fully packed term doesn’t seem feasible from the outside; it feels like a mountain in front of you, except you’ve completely forgotten how you managed to climb it the first time around. At the start of the holiday, I was pining after Cambridge, but – after 5 weeks feeling like I still haven’t processed all that happened – I’m struggling to picture how I’ll have the energy to do it all again. Moreover, there’s the pressure to grab the opportunities on your university bucket list before time dwindles and another term is done – join the lacrosse team? Be in a play? Write for Varsity? There is so much to do and so little time to get it done.

And yet, taking a step back from all the anxieties of being a first year, you’ll see that the second term has the potential to be so much better than the first. A new wealth of opportunities lie ahead – but you won’t have time to appreciate them if you let last term’s stresses hang over you.

Lent term could be so wonderful: no time wasted trying desperately to make friends, sitting in hour long fire safety talks or frantically Googling what ‘DoS’ means. Yes, it’s scary to be a fully-fledged member of the university faced with real responsibilities and expectations but, for the first time, you also get the privilege of coming back to somewhere that actually feels like home – and that sense of belonging has the power to make your term so much easier, calmer, and more worthwhile.