Freshers Michaelmas 2020

Letters for incoming freshers

Iulia, Úna and Anca give advice to the incoming freshers. [Credit: Iulia Lavinia Marin, Úna McGeough and Anca Cotîrlan]

Don’t ever allow yourself to feel like the imposter who named the syndrome!

Iulia Lavinia Marin

Dear fresher,

Beginnings can be both exciting and scary. I remember bursting with joy when I received my acceptance letter from Cambridge. It felt like my academic efforts had finally been recognised and rewarded.

As the months passed, this uplifting feeling began to turn to worry. When I arrived in Cambridge, my academic confidence had vanished. How could I stand out in such a sea of merit?

My main piece of advice is don’t let yourself ever lose confidence! Don’t ever allow yourself to feel like the imposter who named the syndrome! 

You will meet many people who look like they have everything under control and, somehow despite the hundreds of deadlines, are not worried or tired. Don’t be fooled! Cambridge is busy for everyone. When you feel low, remember that this is not evidence of your academic abilities and that you are definitely not the only one feeling like this.

I would also recommend not getting too stressed about your academic results. The Cambridge experience is about so much more than achieving a First Class degree! University offers a broad spectrum of opportunities outside the walls of your faculty. Join societies, try new sports, attend conferences or even attend the lectures of other faculties that you think may interest you.  

Also, please take advantage of this beautiful city. Go and solve your supervision work in the Botanical Gardens, contemplate the walls covered in multicoloured ivy, or even try the college formal challenge!

Don’t allow coronavirus to impede this exciting journey that you have just embarked on! With everything online, you can attend a lot more events than before, you can save time cycling to lectures and can even watch your lectures in the Churchill gardens!

Good luck with your journey ahead!

Iulia Lavinia Marin

2nd year Economics student

At the end of the day, it [a society] is just a bit of side entertainment – it doesn’t matter if you are the next Picasso!

Úna McGeough

Dear fresher, 

My name is Úna and I’m from a small rural village in Ireland. I am starting my second year at Churchill studying MML (Modern and Medieval Languages), specialising in Spanish and Portuguese. 

So far, my time at Churchill has been full of emotions, ranging from homesickness to excitement. Over time, I have adapted to the surroundings, which were at first very unfamiliar to me, and have been made to feel so welcome by the College community!

I would recommend getting involved with all the activities at Churchill and the wider University. In College, you can get involved in artwork sessions on a Sunday afternoon, sports such as netball and lacrosse, the College newspaper and so much more!

When I first arrived in Cambridge, I was very harsh on myself. I didn’t feel that I was good enough to participate in any of the societies. I strongly recommend all freshers to throw themselves into a society and ignore this self doubt. At the end of the day, it is just a bit of side entertainment – it doesn’t matter if you are the next Picasso!

I would also advise freshers to not get too worked up about your academic studies. It is not the be all and end all! Don’t be worried about taking up time mingling with friends in the hall or going into town for a nice meal. You don’t have to spend all your time working.

I can guarantee that you will have a great time learning more about your subject. The teaching staff and Directors of Studies (DOSs) are amazing at encouraging each individual student to develop their academic interests and to push their limits. Some of the greatest conversations I’ve had have actually been here in the Churchill hall. I have found myself finally being able to express my ideas and views to those around me. 

If you are feeling low, remember that there are lots of people in College to support you! You can talk to your College parents, the JCR Welfare Officers, the Nurse or your pastoral tutor. 

Good luck to everyone starting and let’s make this year a good one!

Úna McGeough

2nd year MML student

You may sometimes feel a bit left out, but, trust me, there is always a place and a group for you.

Anca Cotirlan

Dear fresher, 

I should begin by saying that joining the Cambridge community is not going to be a ‘piece of cake’. It is going to be both an emotional amalgam and an academic bewilderment. 

Firstly, be prepared to feel…a lot. The terms are short, so just like the course material, feelings are more condensed. You should also remember that you are here to grow, change and shape your personality, not just to try and top the Tripos. It is normal to be in a roller-coaster of sensations and you should cherish that. Treat it as your opportunity to learn more about yourself and give yourself the chance to taste all flavours of sentiments. As for the academic work, your potential and value reside within yourself, not in your ranking. If the coronavirus pandemic showed us anything, it is that student performance varies in different environments.

As I am an international student from what could be called an Eastern European developing country, I am no stranger to feeling a bit of a misfit – half of the time being completely clueless what the joke was about. Most of the time there are no underlying bad intentions, but the truth is that Cambridge life is not perfect. You may sometimes feel a bit left out, but, trust me, there is always a place and a group for you.

Also, do not listen to the criticism of Churchill! I’ve had students from other colleges ridiculing me for choosing Churchill, because of its architecture and the not-so-near distance to the city centre. Don’t mind them! Over time, you will discover the true beauty of Churchill.

Finally, let me tell you to come prepared to take the University by storm and to make it your own. Because when we go home, in lockdown or not, nobody remembers the fancy entrance of a college, but that time they stayed out late in front of it chatting with their friends. 

Good luck!

Anca Cotirlan

2nd year Natural Sciences student