Describing the indescribable: the end-of-term summary

Trying the explain Cambridge to your nearest and dearest? It’s a near-impossible task, writes Maverick Fraser

Maverick Fraser

The hectic terms encourage a lot of questions from curious family

Returning home from my first term at Cambridge, one of my first ports of call was the comfort of my grandparents’ home. Their almost infectious enthusiasm and pride in having a grandson who studies at Cambridge manifests itself through the torrent of questions about my university life before the kettle has even finished boiling:

“Who are your new friends?”

My grandma beats my grandpa to the first one, referring immediately to the variety of content that she has seen me post on social media with my newfound pals. Indeed, she is a cool, Instagram grandma. My grandpa points to each picture and is keen to know their names, where they are from, and what they are studying.

“And have you found yourself a wife yet?”

My grandma dives in for a second one – and it’s a biggie. She’s joking (I think), although she herself was engaged to my grandpa aged 17, so I’m already worryingly behind schedule in her eyes. I nervously laugh it off, saying that I haven’t yet found a girlfriend. The next few seconds involve me gazing into space trying to remember if, in the buzz and excitement of all those Wednesday Cindies sessions, my future wife has somehow passed me by.

“How do I describe Cambridge? What do I tell my friends? What do they actually want to hear?”

As it was Christmas time, we were scrolling through the TV guide, and my grandpa’s eyes lit up at the sight of ‘Carols from Kings College Cambridge’ being broadcast by the BBC.

“Is he your friend?”

My grandpa asks, pointing at random at one of the members of the choir on screen. I respond in the negative, followed by an overwhelming feeling of shame at my failure to become a BNOC.

I say goodbye to my grandparents, and a few hours later I am having dinner with my close friends from home, who are now studying at various universities across the country.

“So how’s Cambridge?”

Let the probing begin.

“Yeah, it’s really….”And before I answer, I take a sudden pause. How do I describe Cambridge? What do I tell my friends? What do they actually want to hear?

With a friendship group containing members who attend the nightlife-laden universities of Nottingham, Birmingham, and Leeds, is it really a good idea to tell them I once queued 90 minutes for a club that never ceases to play High School Musical songs? How about telling them that one of my favourite nights out is going to a Wetherspoons on the weekend because there’s a dance floor inside, and the DJ plays some absolutely incredible remixes? Or maybe the time I stayed up until 2am in a questionable attempt to write an essay on Russian linguistics? No, they won’t want to hear that.

“…it’s lovely, the people are genuinely really great,” which, to be honest, is both the most important thing, and also the truth. I genuinely am convinced that the college system is outstanding for encouraging mixing amongst various year groups, subjects, and societies.

“I now DJ at my college parties as well,” I say, throwing a flex into the conversation when it’s due. It is true, to a certain extent. I do choose the music, even if it’s solely by pressing the ‘play’ button on Soundcloud.


Mountain View

All I want for Christmas... is to be back in Cambridge

The great thing about Cambridge is, whether you’re a professional or an amateur, you can get involved. There really is no pressure, and doing something just because you ‘feel like it’ is a valid reason, and sometimes even the best reason for doing something.

When the term ends, I find it an amusing enigma to speak concretely about the entirety of term. The beautiful blur that exists as a result of the late nights spent working, the early hours outside the Van of Life, and all the sport, drama, music, art, and societies that are compressed in-between is one that is truly treasured, even if it’s nigh-on impossible to capture it entirely.