In search of lost terms

Filled with existential dread and grad job panic, English finalist Jemma Slingo wonders what life post-Cambridge will be like

Jemma Slingo

Rebecca Sillis

Oh, to be young. To be a sapling freshly planted in the Cambridge soil, rather than a withered, third-year husk. Gone are the carefree days of youth, where books were interesting and everybody seemed really cool.

As a third year, I now spend my time camped out in the Careers Service library, trying to quash a rising sense of panic. I’m not alone in this. I’m usually surrounded by fellow finalists valiantly ploughing through leaflets with titles like ‘Management Consulting’ and ‘The Rewarding World of Accountancy’. After considering a number of career options – graduate medicine (I’m an English student), quantitive analysis (turns out I didn’t know what either of those words meant), the Church, etc. – I am now resigned to travelling the world and finding myself instead. The thought of contracting dysentery in an Indian youth hostel is currently more attractive than sitting any more psychometric tests.

“I’m even starting to feel affectionate towards the Corpus Clock and its ever-present audience of Chinese tourists”

But how will I leave Cambridge behind? What will I do without the cobbles and the Backs and Grantchester Meadows? I’m even starting to feel affectionate towards the Corpus Clock and its ever-present audience of Chinese tourists. Yesterday, I caught myself staring longingly at the concrete eye-sore that is the Sidgwick Site, trying to soak it all in.

That said, graduation is still far enough away for realism to intrude every now and then. With thirteen essays left to write, fifteen hours’ worth of exams to sit and a dissertation to bash out, I’m a long way from dewy-eyed reminiscence. In fact, even when June does arrive, there are a few elements of Cambridge life that I’ll be glad to see the back of. I’ll struggle to miss my cast iron prison bed, which is roughly the width of a pavement slab, and offers similar levels of cushioning.

College cooking facilities also leave a lot to be desired. At Peterhouse, it is impossible to fit two normal-sized adults in a kitchen at any one time. Even when you’re alone, you have to climb over the kettle to reach the fridge.

Then there’s supervisions. I mean, I love an intellectually invigorating discussion as much as the next person. Sadly, though, the joys of Plato and Kant are usually overshadowed by awkward seating arrangements. All my supervisions take place in private studies, and typically involve being engulfed by overly squidgy sofas. Its hard to feel intellectually invigorated when you’re being smothered by scatter cushions. There’s also the fact that my stomach will always, always start to rumble loudly ten minutes into any supervision, regardless of the time of day. It’s a biological phenomenon. All in all, therefore, it’s rare that I leave a supervision with my dignity intact.


Mountain View

Fairy-tale Newnham snow photo goes viral, hitting front page of Reddit

It’s possible, then, that leaving Cambridge will be less of a wrench than I thought. Perhaps the problem lies in what comes after. Or rather, the fact that I don’t know what comes after. That’s not because I don’t have a job yet (*screams internally*) but because, even if I’d been offered a job, everything would still be shrouded in haze. I wouldn’t know where I’d be living, or who’d I’d be with, or really what I’d be doing at all. My brain is forced to short-circuit whenever it thinks about next year. What’s more, I might turn out to be utterly incompetent. In the past three years, I have got the art of writing essays about books I don’t understand down to a tee. But actual work, where skills are required? It remains a mystery.

Ultimately, there’s only one for thing it. Bring on the Master’s

Illustrated by Rebecca Sillis