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Blog by: Florence

Hong Kong. Studying Geography. Read more

Cambridge Union Bicentenary Ball

Let me introduce you to an aspect of Cambridge that’s definitely one of my highlights of my two years here. Cambridge has a lot to offer in terms of activities outside of work, and this is one of them. Founded in 1815, the Cambridge Union is the oldest debating society in the world, and the most famous society at the University of Cambridge. I joined as a member and do not regret it at all. Many famous speakers such as Stephen Fry, Quentin Blake and other political figures have visited the union at some point and given a speech. It is a fantastic society that provides lots of food for thought for those interested in current affairs, political matters, debates and more.

The union also hosts a series of events and entertainments for students during term time. For their 200th anniversary, the Union hosted a bicentenary ball on February of 2015. I’m going to talk a little about my experience as an avid ball-goer of the event!

Firstly, this is not your usual party in that it is a formal, black-tie event. Guests were required to dress up in formal ball gowns and bow ties, which meant that this special ball was quite glamorous and fancy. The Union was also lit up and fully utilised, unlike its previous balls where only 2 or 3 rooms were used. This time, all of the historical union building was open to use, which meant that the ball covered enough to keep everyone busy throughout the night.

The food was decent- doughnuts, sweets, fudge, meringues, burgers, you name it, you got it. It was more decadent than the usual food from May Balls, because this was a special event after all. The music was good, although the ball was interrupted by an unexpected fire alarm somewhere between the main acts.

Overall, I enjoyed the evening a lot. It was a historical night, after all, it’s only once that the Union gets to be 200 years old!

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Artistic events at Cambridge University

I’m a huge fan of art and the creative scene, and Cambridge University offers students a variety of art-related events that occur throughout the year. Two events marked the highlight of the term- one was the ‘Love art after dark’ event held by Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam museum, and the second one was Arcsoc’s Cabaret event at the Cambridge Union building. I’m going to talk about Arcsoc Cabaret in this post so I can share some interesting details about the wonderfully unique event.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Architecture society’s Cabaret event for last week. This is an annual fancy-dress music and art party at the Union building, and it went on from 9pm to early in the morning. Architecture students are known for their sense of creativity and style, so I had good expectations for this event. After a short queue, I entered the building and was pleasantly surprised at the decorations that the architecture students have put in place. Balloons and glitter was everywhere, and one room was decorated with foil spread on the floor.

The theme was “Saturate”, which meant that everyone went to the event dressed up as colourful as they can. I went dressed as a cup of lemonade, and all of my friends had a great time.

Highlights include the life drawing, where models posed for students to draw, the dance floor in the union debating chamber which was lit up and colourful, and of course, the fancy-dresses that everyone had on. It’s not always that Cambridge students get to celebrate the end of an essay or supervision with this much colour!


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Fitzwilliam College Winter Ball- Review

REVIEW: It’s always exciting when your own college hosts a large-scaled event like a ball, and Fitzwilliam’s Winter Ball was no exception. My college held it’s biennial winter ball on December 4th on a cold night. Even though the cold was kicking in, the activities on offer kept everyone busy, filled and everyone had lots of fun.

To start off, the entertainments were great. There was a spinning wheel that lit up the college, and provided a dizzy, exhilarating ride where one could see the college in all its glory. The Grove was used for casinos, and there was a silent disco which was enjoyable despite running out of headphones for a while. Other creative entertainments include a piñata every hour, shisha, massage, henna and a photo-wall for those keen on experiencing it all.

Food was innovative and plentiful- I tried a ‘wild’ Kangaroo burger and had bannoffee pizza, which were two things that I have never tasted before. The Food team made sure that supplies didn’t run out until the early hours of the day, and there were doughnuts, burgers, hotdogs, cupcakes as well as three chocolate fountains on offer. Drinks were plentiful as there was a cocktail bar which served up delicious mixes, and shots were available in various rooms, if you knew where to find them.

The highlights of the evening has to be two things: 1) The Hoosiers headlined the Winter Ball and performed an extra long set in the auditorium, where the crowds went wild. 2) Roller skating rink- I could not have imagined that Fitzwilliam’s dining hall would be transformed into a disco skating rink equipped with funky music and colourful skates. The queues, however, were long for this particular activity so that was a hit and miss in terms of time.

Overall, the college was well lit up, decorated well and I have to say, I’m impressed with the college’s ball which kept us entertained, fed and cheerful until the early hours of the day.

SCORE: 4/5

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5 things you must do during Freshers Week

I’m no longer a fresher! It feels odd typing this sentence out, because I am no longer a wide-eyed, fresh-faced first year student. I’m now a second year, looking forward to starting a brand new term in Cambridge. It’s not as exciting as before, but seeing as I am a year wiser, here are 5 things that incoming students (yes, you!) simply must do during the incredible 4 days of freshers week.

1. Make friends with the person next to you- it goes without saying that Freshers week is the best time to meet new people. Be it the person you’re walking next to, or the student looking lost in college, or the girl sitting next to you in the buttery- everyone’s friendly and open to chatting. So don’t be shy!

2. Go to pub crawls – even if you don’t want to drink, it’s a must to join in your college’s pub crawl during your first few days in Cambridge. You get to meet new friends, chat over a pint, socialise with students from other colleges, and best of all, visit all of the most traditional pubs in Cambridge at once.

3. Go punting- Cambridge isn’t Cambridge without punts, so join in on punting tours that occur during your first few days in town. The International Cambridge Students Union (ICUSU), for example, offers both day and night punting trips for freshers.

4. Tour around Cambridge- enjoy the natural scenery and the picturesque landscape that will be your home for the next 3 or 4 years. Colleges usually have second year students that will show you around town and take you on walking tours to the best spots in Cambridge. So don’t miss out on this chance to do a little sightseeing.

5. Freshers’ Fair -Societies and hobbies are key parts of life in Cambridge. Remember to visit the Freshers Fair, where many societies will be showcasing their term cards, event plans and telling you all about what’s on offer. There’s also many freebies like pizza, pens and chocolate up for grabs, so don’t miss out.

Freshers week is short and sweet, so enjoy the ride and relax!

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Trinity May Ball

May Week is the highlight of the student experience at Cambridge- it’s a week of garden parties, food, drinks and may balls.

So what exactly are may balls?

May balls are large, lavish events held at the end of each academic year to celebrate the end of exams. The dress code is often Black or White tie, and many of the colleges in Cambridge hold different May Balls at varying dates. These parties are usually themed and feature unlimited drinks, endless entertainment and several large, famous music headliners who perform on stages in the beautiful college lawns.

This year, I was fortunate enough to go to the Trinity College May Ball. It was an outstanding event requiring Black Tie, although many of the men donned on their caps, canes and White Tie outfits. The food was great- burgers, paella, oysters, champagne and almost anything you would want to have. As for entertainment, Lawson was the main headliner, although I missed most of their performance because I was too busy getting my hair done in the salon in one of the rooms.

Trinity was really well decorated and lit up, adding an elegant touch to the already impressive architecture of the college. I particularly enjoyed the flying swings and the bumper cars on offer in the Trinity backs- I think I must have ridden the swings at least 5 times that evening. The highlight of my night was the punting on the River Cam at 4 a.m. at night- it was getting cold but it was lovely to enjoy the river in the early hours of the morning whilst relaxing with friends.

I took a lot of amazing pictures and had a great time at the Trinity May Ball! It’s definitely a great way to wrap up the end of my first year at Cambridge.


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Exam Season

Easter term is perhaps the most intensive term in Cambridge. Everyone has exams, and apart from having to juggle your own subject’s modules, you have to learn to balance your time well, squeeze in a few sessions with friends and learn to cope with all the revision… I’ve gone through my notes, and so far it’s looking alright. Many of my friends have exams spread over several days or weeks, but for me, it’s all happening within two days. First year is always nerve-racking, because you don’t know what to expect and you don’t know what the exams in Cambridge are like. Many of the tripos have an extensive history and traditions- did you know that the results for the Mathematical Tripos are dropped down a balcony from the Senate House after it is released?

The only thing that is keeping me motivated is May Week, where I’ll be going to the Trinity May Ball with a few friends. I have heard great things about the ball and May week in general, and apparently one of the May Balls will be inviting a special celebrity guest!

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How to choose a course for Cambridge University

Many of you are probably struggling to decide what to study at university. How should you pick one subject amidst so many possible choices?  It is often difficult to change majors after entering university. Therefore before picking a subject, it is vital to discuss and think carefully about what are your likes, dislikes and interests. Here are some advice on how to choose a course that you will hopefully enjoy for the next three or four years.

1. A-level subjects

Look closely at the A-level (or equivalent) subjects you are currently taking in school. What subjects are you good at? Which subject do you enjoy most? Picking a subject to study at university can be easy if you have a particular A-level subject that you enjoy most, found the material interesting or excel in. Your A-level years are a good time to explore which subjects you personally enjoy and want to pursue.

2. Your interests

What subjects interest you outside of school? Sometimes, the areas that stimulate you or matter to you are not the ones you can find in an A-level curriculum. An example is the study of Law – if you are interested in the legal aspects of society, or find the court cases in the newspapers more fascinating than the entertainment pages, then perhaps pursuing further studies in Law is a good choice. Picking a subject from your interests means that you can talk about it in the interview easily too.

3. Your future career

Whilst many students still ponder about their future career options, some of you will already have a strong idea of what you want to be when you graduate from university. Most students who pursue Medicine or Law go on to become doctors or lawyers, and this makes sense because the training you will receive at university is often job-specific and technical. If you have a clear aim of what you want to be after graduating, then picking a subject should be relatively hassel-free.

4. An entirely new subject

Cambridge University offers many courses that you probably will not have come across before. Courses like Human Social and Political Sciences (HSPS), Linguistics, Asian and Middle Eastern studies and Land Economy are unique to Cambridge and may be something you have never even considered applying for. These courses are often a combination of many different, but inter-related fields of study. For example, Land Economists at Cambridge study a mixture of Law, Geography and Economics, as well as other modules that they can opt for in the latter years.

By researching carefully about these unfamiliar and new subjects before applying, you can get a clearer idea of what you want to do at university. All the information you need is available online!

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Girton College Spring Ball – A Review

I’ve never been to Girton College before, but I made the journey to the off-town college last week on March 14th 2014 (a Friday night) for the hyped-up, lavish biennial spring ball. This is my first real ball in Cambridge, having been to a few mini balls in The Guildhall last term held by the Marshall Society and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. Here is my brief and honest review of the night.

Theme- 3/5 : The theme was Les Années folles, which meant the ‘Roaring Twenties’, and a lot of people dressed up true to the theme. Girls wore shiny dresses, and personally I enjoyed admiring the styles of everyone’s outfit. The theme itself suited Girton College well because the College was built back in late 1800s, which meant that the College didn’t have to change it’s interior to create a vintage effect. The College was lit up with green and blue lights, and the whole College looked rather fancy and grand.

Food and drinks- 2/5 : Food choices were rather limited and nothing special- burgers, fries, fish fingers, ice cream, frozen yogurt, popcorn, cookies and candy floss – the typical snacks that you get in a carnival. The ice-cream van left quite early and the twin chocolate fountains were gone after a few hours, which meant that there wasn’t much choice in edibles after a few hours of the ball. There were smoothies, cookies, hot tea and hot chocolate in another room, which was comforting for those who waited for hours in the cold for the queue and wanted something to eat. There was a selection of unlimited drinks, which was great because they did not run out even until dawn.

Entertainment- 3/5 : There wasn’t a time where I had nothing to do during the ball. I was impressed by the helter skelter which was constructed right next to the entrance of Girton College. It was great fun sliding down the ramp, and the queue wasn’t long at all. Where the queues are long were the bumper car rides, but it was worth the wait because who wouldn’t enjoy crashing your dodgem into a friend’s as hard as you can? There was a successful disco in one of the tents in the main court, where the DJ played funk music and we all donned on rectangle-shaped black sunglasses as we danced to the beat. Live music was streaming in the main hall, which was enjoyable because the singers were extremely talented. There was a comedian in another room, whom performed stand-up for a while, but he left too soon before I could catch more of his jokes. The music and dodgem were definitely the highlights of the evening.

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Atmosphere- 4/5 :  In various rooms scattered around the College,  live music was being played by student entertainers, which brought a very gothic atmosphere to the College. The theme it self was reminiscent of the golden, bustling burlesque era of the 1920s, and the College decorations were generally consistent with this vintage theme. Drapes and fairy lights were strung across ceilings, and candles in coloured glass lit up the pathway outside the College. There were a lot of guests in the Girton Spring Ball, which gave the College a lively atmosphere because everyone was excited, eager and happy. In fact, there were so many guests that the “survivors photo” (a photo taken of those who stayed until 5:00 a.m, the end of the ball) took an extremely long time to take. because the crowds had to keep changing positions just to fit into the frame.

Overall, it was good evening of fun, catching up and partying. The only thing I was surprised about was that it took quite a while to queue up for the ball, especially having to stand for a long time in the cold March breeze. However, I enjoyed the night because it was fun to go out with friends from College and to be in a new, beautifully decorated environment for a ball. Also, the Girton ball was a great way to end the term because life in Cambridge is indeed quite hectic at times, especially with the short 8-week terms.

Cambridge is not all about working all day, it’s also about people taking some time off to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings that are the scenic and picturesque Colleges and what they have to offer.

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A post about Spring Balls

One of the most special experiences that you get in Cambridge University are the Spring Balls held by individual Colleges during Lent Term. These balls are formal occasions for having fun with your friends, and students have to wear a black tie attire, which means dresses for ladies and suits for men.

Students from other Colleges can purchase tickets (dining / non-dining). The ball is essentially a themed nights of dance, entertainment, music, food, drinks, games and amusement rides which are held inside the College grounds. Each spring ball is very different- Churchill College holds an annual ball with lots of photo booths, and Girton College holds a ball every two years.

I was fortunate enough to get two tickets for the Girton Spring Ball this year (March 14th), after a lucky shot at the ticketing queue. I’ll be going with my friend Hannah from Fitzwilliam College, and we can’t wait for all the glitz and glamour of the evening. Before balls, we usually gather in groups to dress up, put on makeup and get everything ready. I’m sure there will be lots of photo taking, laughing and eating.

The theme for this year’s Girton Spring Ball is Les Années folles. This literally means the “Golden Twenties”, or alternatively the “Roaring Twenties” in Europe, where most of the continent had an economic boom following the World War I before the Wall Street Crash in 1929. This seems very unique and vintage-like, maybe it will be reminiscent of scenes from “The Great Gatsby”, which happens to be one of my favourite books.

The Spring Ball will be filled with stalls, rides and performers to keep students entertained throughout the night. I have never been to Girton College before, so it will be a novel and amazing experience to spend a whole evening in the college.

I am very excited for the Girton Spring Ball. Please stay tuned for my next blog post, which will be an exciting review of the ball with pictures included!

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Guide: How to choose a Cambridge College

For those of you who are applying, are you worried about which College to choose? Chances are, many of you will apply directly to a College unless you are making an open application. You may have done some research on College websites about the environment, accommodation, location, tutors and specific entry requirements of each College – but the big question remains: how should I go about deciding on a College? Fear not, I’ve compiled a list of factors that I considered before applying to my College. Hope this helps!

1) Facilities: I enjoy sports, running and being active in general. If you are into sports, do remember to look at each College’s facilities on-site and off-site. Some Colleges have a gym, others don’t. Many Colleges have large off College sports grounds that vary in terms of distance and size.  My College has squash courts, badminton courts, a multi-gym and plenty of other rooms for relaxation and entertainment.

2) Food: Personally, I am not a picky eater so this isn’t much of a deciding factor for me. But if you are concerned about meals, then I’d suggest that you take a look at the ‘Buttery’ section of College websites. Many Colleges upload their menus online, so you can get a general gist of what the College can offer you in terms of food. My College has special “theme nights” to celebrate festivals, where the food and desserts are scrumptious!

3) Library: Many students choose to work in the College library. Others choose to pour over essays in their rooms or a department library (usually situated in the city centre). If you are the former, then the College library’s quality may be an important deciding factor when choosing a College. Libraries in Cambridge come in all shapes and sizes:  Some are small and cozy, some are brand-new and modern, and others even have beds!

4) Accommodation: Again, Cambridge student rooms also come in various forms and sizes. My College’s room falls on the small side compared to the ones found in other Colleges. Some rooms are newly furnished and are located outside the College – many first-year students live outside their College and move in for their second/ third year.

5) Distance: One of the best advice I can give, after being here for slightly over a term, is that distance matters. Some Colleges are further away from the town centre than others but may be closer to the department of faculty that you are interested in. My advice is to look at the official Cambridge University Map, which can be found online at, and make sure you know where you will be having lectures, where your department is and where your potential Colleges are located.

So, remember to do your research carefully before picking a College. A good method is to shortlist three or four before narrowing it down to one. It is really important to consider all of the factors above because this important decision can really affect your life after you have received the acceptance letter, packed up your bags and officially begin life as a Cambridge student.

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