Firstly, congratulations on your results and welcome to the University of Cambridge! Compass Magazine is here not only to share opinions on various geographical issues but also to help you with your studies. This article will address 5 things I wish I had known as a fresher before starting lectures and supervisions (both of which are very new to any student). The most important thing anyone can tell you is that everyone is in the same position so seek help and ask questions if you need to!
- Lectures are odd…
Regardless of people’s background, coming in to your first lecture, nobody knows what to expect. It is likely you will not fully understand the various concepts immediately but things should start to make sense after a few lectures and some initial reading, especially cultural geography. If you don’t understand, we are incredibly lucky that the academic staff in Cambridge are all friendly and will happily go through anything with you. Essentially, do not worry it will make sense. Eventually.
- …Supervisions are weirder
I will forever remember my first supervision. It is likely you will be nervous and not know what to expect from this hour of what seems initially like hell. However, by the end of the year you will realise that these hours are the most effective and useful during your time at the university. The supervisors are there to be asked questions and to bounce ideas off and supervisions are meant to be a discussion not a mini lecture. To be honest, they’re a lot like your interview. You get out what you put in – if you don’t engage or ask questions they won’t seem as helpful as they could be. Remember that your supervisors were likely in the same position as you and are there to help support your studies. If you have a 10-minute coughing fit and can’t say anything (like me) they are surprisingly nice. At times, they may seem harsh but see it is constructive criticism – the key point is don’t be intimidated!
- It gets easier…
Lectures slowly make more sense as each topic is covered in greater depth and that allows the reading to be done more efficiently. Do not be surprised if you read for 5/6 days at the start of Michaelmas before starting to write your essay. This will reduce over time as you become more proficient with your work and understand what is required of you week-in week-out. I fondly remember struggling with many concepts in cultural geography, but, come Easter, this struggle evaporated due to further reading and discussing the themes with my DoS (Director of Studies – you will get used to this term very quickly!) and supervisors. Your fellow students are great to discuss ideas with, so share your essays and opinions!
- Doing other stuff is great (and important)
Cambridge is often perceived as a place where all you do is work. This does not have to be true at all. Many find, including myself, that by doing extra-curricular activities, whether music, drama or sport, you can structure your time and take your mind off work. The fresher’s fair is the perfect place to sign up to countless societies but then you can pick and choose what you want to do.
- It is fun!
First year is great fun! You are in a new town with new people and studying a subject you love. You deservedly got your place at this university and there is so much to make your studies enjoyable. The course material is very interesting and Cambridge is a beautiful and fun place to be and live. There are countless things to look forward to throughout each term, whether that is the Varsity Ski trip, the May Balls or Cuppers! And also, it is likely you won’t have a 9am lecture until at least second term (scientists don’t like us for that).
From all of us at Compass, welcome to Cambridge and congratulations for choosing the best subject. We hope you have a great first few weeks and if you have any questions or want to get involved with the magazine then send us a message on Facebook or find one of us around department. Compass is one of the many things that is fun and great to get involved with. Just remember, everyone is in the same position as you and everyone is there to help.