Matthew Bessant

In the third episode of this season’s Switchboard, Izzy and Nora hear from people throughout the university with different experiences of religion and spirituality at Cambridge. During the episode, the hosts learn about how people of different spiritualities and faiths find connections and community amidst university life.

The episode begins with the introduction of Nora, this week’s guest host, who is a first year HSPS student at Homerton. Nora discusses her experiences of spirituality and religion growing up in Ireland, saying that moving to a secular university after years of religious education has been a noticeable shift. Nora says that she is a strong believer in the option of secular education, even though it is very far from what she experienced herself. The pair discuss the importance of sex education in schools, and how its relation to religion has led to less effective teaching. Nora reminds listeners of the importance that she feels should be placed upon the separation of an institution and the faith itself. 

The hosts then interview Aiste, a fresher at Magdalene who studies PBS and is a Christian Union representative for Magdalene College. Aiste discusses how she got involved in the society through Michaelmas and Lent term. She discusses events which the Christian Union would hold such as music nights in the chapel, rounders games and swaps, and she says she cannot wait to welcome the new freshers as everyone is welcome. The hosts and Aiste then discuss how colleges could encourage a more diverse range of events. Aiste mentions the fears she had prior to arriving at Cambridge and how the CU provided a range of people for her to meet. The conversation also moves on to emphasise the difficulty of separating the faith from repressive institutions which they represent. The discussion concludes with Aiste talking about how her experience at university has made her realise things about her faith, and stating the importance of an individual adding to conversations about faith.

Following Aiste, Izzy and Nora interview Miz, a first-year historian at Kings College who is a part of the Islam Society. Miz explains how he was raised Muslim and grew up in a Muslim majority area in East London. Upon arriving at university, Miz says that he wanted the same sense of community that he had at home, and so he joined the Islam Society. He discusses the problems that have arisen, stating that, generally speaking, Muslim issues do not always make the agenda as often. Miz mentions the difficulty which he has, at times, experienced with practicing his faith, such as having to complete essays on Eid. The discussion moves on to how people’s individual relationships with religion have changed due to coming to university. Miz states that the change in setting has made him realise the cultural and religious environment that he was brought up in, and how he has been shaped by where he grew up. 

Catch up on last week's episode...

The hosts then go on to talk to Talia, a second-year theology student who completed an eight-week mindfulness course at Cambridge in Lent term last year, she has since joined the Mindfulness Society and is now the president of the committee for the next two terms. Talia highlights the importance of having a toolkit to fall back upon whilst creating habits for when not you are not feeling your best. She also talks about the benefits of the community and the importance of the learned environment for first getting into mindfulness. The hosts and Talia discuss how mindfulness is about ‘the way you meet your thoughts’, and Talia recommends completing the mindfulness course and creating micro habits in everyday life. The conversation concludes with Talia saying that it is important to remember to ‘go face up to things and take care of yourself’. 

Switchboard is Varsity’s flagship podcast. Episodes are broadcasted every Friday at 8:30pm on Cam FM, and are available on all major podcasting apps via Anchor. Transcript will be available here after the episode’s release.