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Blog by: Dara

Lisburn, Northern Ireland - Studying Politics, Psychology and Sociology (PPS). Read more

Hey Ho Hey Ho, it’s off to the Theatre we go

One of the perks about being a student in Cambridge is opportunity to see some outstanding student talent. In my opinion one of the best examples of this is in the theatre (sorry sports fans, music fans, fans). I think I am wholly justified though. Everyone has heard of Footlights or has at least heard of Sacha Baren Cohen, John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie…. or someone else from the list of famous alumni who have graced the well-worn stages of Cambridge’s Drama Scene during their time as a student here. And in the annual amalgamation of the comedy societies from Oxford, Durham and Cambridge it is telling that the former two share the first Act whilst Cambridge perform on another level for the entirety of the second half.

I haven’t had much of an opportunity to go to the theatre in Cambridge. With work and the the extra-curricular things that I do, it is a luxury I can ill afford. But last term I had the perfect excuse when ‘The Collector’ was on in Corpus Playrooms.

It was directed and produced by two very good friends of mine from College and it had the support of the Cambridge student newspapers, so I had no reason not to go. The performance of the adaptation of the 1963 John Fowles novel kept the audience captivated and guessing until the end. It showed some of the dedication and polish that I have grown to expect only with professional theatre. Whilst sitting in the audience I felt a twang of regret that I have only been in one theatre production in my time at Cambridge. (Some argue that one is enough… but I am not so sure of that conviction now!)

I was reminded again of the opportunities available to students in Cambridge, the chances to use whatever talent or passion you have. I am not sure if I have seen the debut of the next Tom Hollander, but I am convinced that going to the theatre here is time well spent, and who knows, maybe I will decide to audition and try and make my break as the next big thing? That is as unlikely to happen as it is for the weather to match the seasons, but I’m holding on to the fact that in Cambridge talent of all sort and any sort will always find a place to shine.

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Paris, je t’adore!

Happy New Year!

It’s certainly pretty happy for me, with 2 weeks still to go before term starts again.

The best thing about Christmas holidays at Cambridge is that you have a longer holiday than most other universities, and without modular exams when you go back in January, you have no excuse not to make the most of your time off.

My best friend lives in Paris (lucky thing) so along with some friends from college I decided to spend New Years à Paris. Even the rain (think ‘Midnight in Paris’) couldn’t dampen our spirits. Coming from Ireland though I guess you get used to it…

It was a packed trip, seeing the Parisian sights day and night and celebrating the start of 2012 in style, but I think one of the highlights for me was the latest exhibition in the Musée D’Orsay: “Beauté, morale et volupté dans l’Angleterre d’Oscar Wilde” an exhibition of artists from the era of Oscar Wilde including one of my favorite prints by William Morris. Can’t say I’m not cultured now!
Have a look if you’re interested:

Reality does come crashing down once you’re home though, and the mountain of work to do before returning to Cambridge is more intimidating this side of Christmas. To get motivated, I registered for a place to see the President of the ICJ speak in London (I may have previously mentioned my love for International Law, if not, here’s the mention again!) I have grown to learn in Cambridge that sometimes the most relevant and the most interesting information you get on a subject you enjoy comes not from lectures or text books but from going to a random talk or presentation relevant to what you are studying or wish to study. I would highly recommend anyone wishing to apply to Cambridge going to such events if they get the chance. The one I am going to was advertised on: but I imagine a good ol’ google search or contacting a local university in your area will be comprehensive.

It is the best way to show your passion for a subject, and maybe if you are lucky find the area that you are most interested to work in later in life.
For me, the chance to see Hisashi Owada is just too tempting an opportunity to pass up. And as Oscar Wilde said,
“I can resist everything except temptation.”

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What a whirlwind term!

It’s been a while since writing here.  So many things that you intend to do in Cambridge, but as long as the necessary are done (meeting essay deadlines and completing the supervision reading at the top of my list, second only  to making the 7am rowing outings) then you feel like you have achieved something.

There has been a dramatic slowing down in the pace of life since I returned to Ireland. It’s so great to be home what with the washing and cooking both done for you, no more lectures and long lie-ins life is at its best.

The past term however has been one of my favourite yet in Cambridge. It’s been lovely spending time with friends from last year and not worrying about settling down to a strange new life. Work is more difficult this year but I have been working harder to ensure I do well this year.  I was worried hard work would come at the cost of sport, drama and to all friends and the unique kind of socializing that Cambridge offers. Admittedly, finding the balance is harder. But surprisingly, work has finally become part of the fun. It helps that at Cambridge you have the freedom to pick your non-compulsory modules. I’m studying Criminology and International Law both of which I really enjoy and finally some of the crazy news stories (always relevant in some way to international law, human rights, criminal sentencing or the penal system) are making sense in legal terms and at last I have some facts to work with rather than my wild opinions.

Despite it being a busy term, I attended some of the recruitment events that Cambridge has to offer students in search of the perfect job. I enjoyed attending solicitors and law firm events in the attempt to find the perfect firm to apply to for a training contract. After my summer’s work, knowing that I would like to be a solicitor has helped me narrow the pool of possibilities. For those who are unsure however, with one of the best careers services in the UK (yes there may be slight bias here, but apply to Cambridge and find out for yourself!), help is never far from hand. I am no closer to securing the illusive training contract, but getting to meet people in city firms in a social context has been fantastic for gaining a real insight to what life would be like as a trainee solicitor.

Before I head to continue with some jolly Christmas shopping, it’s necessary to tell you about the highlight of my term. Maybe one of the highlights of being a Cambridge student?

VARSITY 2011!!!

3200 students from Oxford and Cambridge descended on the French Alps for a week of skiing, partying and chillaxing.

Despite the distinct lack of snow at the start coupled with my painfully slow skiing, the actions soon heated up – snow storms aplenty and realizing its not that embarrassing to fall. Not really. There was the famous VarCity with free burgers and mulled wine and blasting music all afternoon. There was the crazy opening and final night parties. And there was so much pasta bought for our apartment that we could have lived there for a month. Spirits weren’t even dampened by the very disappointing 28-10 defeat to Oxford in the annual Varsity rugby match watched by all the supporters in a packed pub off the slopes.

Pictures speak 1000 words, so I have included some here for your viewing pleasure.

Dara skiing   Dara in skiwear

Students on Varsity ski trip

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and will post again in the New Year.

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Why, Hello Cambridge!

Way too often people say that time passes quickly. I have to say, I agree with the majority on that one after this summer. I have just come back to Cambridge after the quickest, busiest (and thankfully most productive) summer I have ever had.

After a necessary rest and relaxation holiday with my family after May Week, I spent my summer on working placements. The first on a vacation scheme with Olswang ,  a London law firm specializing in Commercial and Media Law, followed by a placement with Murphy & O’Rawe, a defence litigation law firm in Belfast. These summer placements have completely changed my perspective when it comes to studying law. The week with Olswang was fantastic. I had a unique opportunity to experience a type of law I had only a fleeting interest in in the past, and in the process find something that I was genuinely interested in and that worked with skills that I have learned through my school years, work and study. The people I met at the firm were so welcoming and friendly, happy to let us work with them to gain an insight to working life at the firm and answer any questions we had. Overall, it was a brilliant experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

For Northern Irish students it can be very expensive to book flights, organise accommodation and then live in London when you are on internships or vacation schemes as that is where (understandably!) the majority of the best ones will be based. Of course, not all students are interested in pursuing such work over the summer but with the fantastic Cambridge Career’s Service, there are no end to their amalgamation of varied schemes, internships and placements for you to research at your leisure and find something that interests you. These include ones in NI and throughout Ireland, making it a much cheaper alternative and at times much more exciting than the typical London internship.  I was very lucky to get a placement in a firm in Belfast and really tried to make the most out of the 6 weeks and loved being so close to home.

As for right now, I am back in the sunny and beautiful Cambridge. Sadly, the fellow’s pool in our college  garden has been closed for the winter. (Clearly the sunshine is almost as much of a surprise in England as it is in Northern Ireland!) It’s fun moving in to a new room and this time I actually have floor space and a view, incredible. I’m planning to make the most of the few days of sunshine we have now before term officially starts, catching up with friends from last year and enjoying some deadline-free days and nights.

It’s great to be back!

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Exams End and the fun begins

Cambridge knows how to celebrate the end of exams in style! All of my first year I had heard some pretty spectacular things about May Week, a week of end-of-exams celebrations scheduled for the end of June when all subjects have finished and the students and tutors alike deserve a reward for working hard all term (or all year!)

From May Bumps at the beginning, famous May Balls in the beautiful colleges, punting to Grantchester for cream tea to garden parties in the lavish Fellows’ Gardens, my first May Week was every bit as brilliant as promised. Exams and the stress of work seemed very distant while everyone made the most of time with friends before the long summer holiday began.

If you have time, it’s well worth a look at some of the May Ball reviews written by the Tab.

With a few weeks away from Cambridge and lots of time to think about the past year, May Week had to be one of (if not the) highlight of my Cambridge career so far.

This year I have learned that in a university like Cambridge, the expectation is on the students to work consistently, to work hard and to question everything that you study so that you think before you write (a skill that I am just beginning to grasp and which is particularly necessary in a subject like Law). It’s very easy to take your foot off the accelerator and get left behind with a rising sense of panic at the mountain of work you must do – but I have found that it is important to remember that there are always people there to support you including lecturers, tutors and peers. I’ve also learned that so long as you’re a decent time manager you’ll be able to keep up with the work, join all the clubs and societies you want (and trust me, there is something for every sport/cause/pastime you could imagine!) and still have enough time left over to have fun with your friends.

And in the end, no-one can take away that great feeling of satisfaction when you work hard to cross the last hurdle (the infamous exams) before the fun begins and you can relax guilt-free in the glorious English sunshine.

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Crossing the finish line

During exam term, student life here has become much closer to fitting the stereotypical image I had in my head. The scariest thing about this is that frankly, it’s not as scary as I had imagined. You are accepted into Cambridge on the pretence that you either like hard work or are just quite good at it, and what better time to live up to that condition during Summer term before your tripos exams?

Sadly, I can’t stretch ‘not scary’ to fun. Tea parties and going out have been temporarily replaced with revision sessions and trips to the college bar for (another) cup of coffee. I’m left hoping it will all be worth it in the end. But with just 2 more exams in the next 2 days, I simply cannot wait to cross the finish line!

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Bursting the Bubble

Describing Cambridge as a ‘bubble’ was a phenomenon to me when I arrived in here. It was bizarre to hear older students talking about going home or taking the train to London for the day to ‘burst the bubble’. It is however quite an accurate description. You spend your (very short) 8 week terms with everything you need a 15 minute walk or cycle from your college room, and before you realise it what once was an ominous city has dramatically shrunk and that description of Cambridge as a ‘bubble’ is perfectly accurate. So I’m heading home this weekend for a little break. The stress of exams is mounting and I need some home comforts for a few days. It’s surprise to my family who don’t know I’m coming home. Hopefully Mum won’t have anyone staying this weekend to use my bedroom…

If you come from NI, it’s so easy to get home. The train is a 45 minute journey Cambridge Station to Stansted and there are flights into the International Airport at least three times a day.

Booking flights during the Christmas/Easter/Summer sales means you can get a great deal too. So with that knowledge, I’d be crazy not to go home rather stay here going a bit crazy!

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And exam term begins…

Coming back to Cambridge from home was not quite as I had expected. Firstly, it is 5 degrees warmer outside and I have yet to be caught out in the rain. Unfortunately however, the pressure of exams is also starting to be felt. The people feeling the stress the most are the third years with dissertations to be finished and the looming prospect of their final exams at Cambridge. It is nowhere near as bad for a first year, thank goodness! Studying Law has proved to be a decent choice come exam term. I have four distinct subjects and so once I’m bored with one I switch to another and just hope my brain can stay alert. When that fails there is always the never ending supply of coffee.

After unwinding over Easter it’s lovely (even if the panic levels have risen) to come back and see people here again. There have been quite a few revision breaks to avail of too: swimming and water-polo cuppers (an inter-college yearly competition held in almost every sport), the inter-college tennis league, Romeo and Juliet playing at the ADC Theatre and the all important AV Debate at the Student’s Union to name but a few. All of this has once again solidified for me that no matter where your interests lie, there is something to cater for every student at this university! And that does include Ultimate Frisbee.

Good luck to all students sitting their GCSEs/A-Levels or equivalent. The hard work is worth it in the end.

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If you are reading this, then you have ventured to the BeCambridge web pages. I’ve been given the great opportunity to write the odd post telling you about what life is like for me at Cambridge. I hope through my posts you will get a sense for what it is really like to be a student here.

It’s strange to think that it has only been five months since my university career began. After endless re-drafting of a cringe-worthy personal statement, the panic over the perfect interview attire, the crammed reading of the weekly Times Law Review and then the hard work for A-levels to secure my place here, I scarcely dreamt of what life would be like if I eventually made it to university. It was worth the blood, sweat and tears in the end because so far university life has far eclipsed my wildest expectations.

Until next time,

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