"It is this ignorance that has caused us to become, and remain, Cambridge's secret minority"odessa chitty

The University of Cambridge is the rich old man of the applicant dating pool when it comes to finalising UCAS decisions. Cambridge, like any good sugar daddy, promises financial support, opportunities, and a supportive, welcoming environment. Like any young person new to the dating scene, I found it impossible not to fall for the sweet whisperings of empty promises.

For many students, the realisation that these promises are not wholly true is as simple as forgetting about the creepy stranger in their message requests. Yet, for people like me who are care-experienced or estranged from their families, that promise needs to be true. Unfortunately, it seems the dream I was promised died when I entered a full-time relationship with the university, leaving me without support.

“We are viewed as a charity case, an empty money bank that needs to be filled.”

The university offers great bursaries, but there seems to exist a common misconception that money solves everything. We are viewed as a charity case – an empty bank that needs to be filled – instead of successful individuals that the university should be proud to represent.

During my first term, I received several emails – and saw many a post on social media – inviting individuals who were part of minorities to group chats, online socials, and talks to raise awareness within the university. Every time I received a new notification, I felt a tingling of excitement, hoping to see my community represented. I hoped to find a corner of Cambridge in which I could share my experiences and feelings with others who would understand the battles I face every day.

But all I found was disappointment – and frustration – that everyone else seemed to be considered and represented. On several outreach residentials before I applied, the university had promised support and a community. Yet all I feel is exclusion, and shame that a massive part of my identity has not been deemed an important enough minority. We must change this.

My first four weeks at university were difficult; I found it hard to become friends with people who had such different lives from mine. After years of being independent and content with being more or less on my own, several emotions hit me now I was constantly surrounded by living embodiments of the loving parental relationships that I have been deprived of. This was not something I had ever had to manage in quite this way. I wanted to talk to others who understood, and who wouldn’t make me feel guilty for being jealous or upset. But with no established community, I was left on my own.

“I felt like a child crying for attention, when all I really needed was an easily accessible community and representation.”

There is some help available. Luckily, I had the confidence to confide in my Director of Studies and to reach out to my college nurse, but it was an anxiety-ridden, embarrassing process of having to re-tell my trauma. I felt like a child crying for attention, when all I really needed was an easily accessible community and representation to avoid going through emotional turmoil when I should have been enjoying a new chapter in my life.

One night, I decided to submit a Camfess to try to find others in my situation. I was surprised by the amount of care-experienced and estranged students at the university, when I had felt like I was the only one. However, it was disheartening that, although there was the Class Act group on Facebook, there seemed to be no effort on the university’s part to reach out to us or to represent us as a community. We are forced to find help, support, and a community by ourselves. That we are continuously expected to shoulder this burden ourselves is unjust.

Why should we be left distraught, begging to receive help and support from an institution that has a duty of care to its students? My deepest concern is for others in similar situations who feel unable to reach out, to lay out their vulnerabilities to people they have never met. One wonders how many people are suffering unnecessary mental and emotional pain due to the ignorance of others. It is this ignorance that has caused us to become, and remain, Cambridge’s secret minority.


Mountain View

We must end our apathy towards inspiration porn

No one has a magic wand to make our lives perfect – but that is not what we are asking for. We want a voice. Representation at university and college levels would provide care-experienced, estranged students with a community in which to share our worries and concerns with others who understand. It would provide a space to raise awareness and defy stereotypes, and give us the voice that we have been denied our whole lives.

The university has the facilities and the ability to provide this. It is time for us to be represented and recognised as equal, no longer the secret minority. We are worthy of support; we are worthy of a community. This is what we were promised, and it is what must be delivered.