Anna wrote this at the end of her first year studying Architecture here at Christ's College, Cambridge. She is from Manchester, where she did A-Levels in Maths, Art and German. 

What attracted you to Architecture? 

Two students with messy hands, surrounded by strings hanging from a ceiling, wave at the camera.
Anna (right), doing model making. 

I have always been extremely creative but also found maths to be one of my favourite subjects, mainly due to the constant problem solving! Architecture is sort of a perfect mix of the two: using creativity to solve problems and being able to communicate / represent this clearly using artistic skills

A group of friends in front of a body of water, with boats in the background
Architecture trip to Venice

The fact there are trips abroad offered was a persuasion as you’re able to experience some of the architecture you have studied in real life. I also liked the fact there was a greater focus on the history, theory, and philosophy of architecture. It ended up being incredibly useful in understanding architecture itself and even acted as inspiration for studio projects!


Were the any course things that you were nervous about? 

Being completely honest, I was terrified when I first started. Architecture is fairly unique in the sense that it is a subject you will never have studied before and is almost a new language within itself! It can be daunting but believing in yourself and having confidence in your own ideas is most important! It is a very subjective subject which technically means there’s never a wrong answer.

Don’t worry, the fear quickly wore off as not only was it extremely easy to make great friends in the sociable studio environment (architects are pretty cool), but the teachers and whole department are very friendly and supportive!


Why did you apply to Christ's?

Four students in the pool
Celebrating the end of term in Christ's pool

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had never actually visited Christ’s before I applied. However, I was immediately attracted by the emphasis on the friendly environment and community spirit (both true!). It is of course stunning to look at and I’d be lying if I said the pool wasn’t a pull factor!

It has most definitely lived up to my expectations! It is true that everyone is so so friendly and you will always bump into at least one person you know whilst walking through college! It’s a lovely, relaxed college that is extremely supportive but also encourages you to enjoy yourself! The option of formal dinners nearly every night is a big bonus and we have undeniably the BEST porters in Cambridge (even stated by members of other colleges!).


Porters' LodgeWhat is your favourite place in College?

Probably the Porters' Lodge because I love a natter with the porters (especially the night ones). Or the Fellows' Garden since it’s stunning and a lovely place to escape and relax: Christ’s feels a bit like Narnia.


What do you think of the collegiate system?

Seven students in black tie dress
At Christ's May Ball

At first it was a little strange to get my head around but actually I think it’s a really lovely system. It made it extremely easy to make friends in the first few weeks as you basically live together. It also feels a bit like an escape and sanctuary if you’ve been working all day at the department or library! Additionally, once you make one friend at a different college you’ll easily be introduced to many others. College bar hopping is one of my favourite activities!


How have you found the support from College? 

The tutors (academic staff who don't do your subject but keep an eye on you pastorally) are really friendly and supportive if you ever feel you need it. They can get you in contact with college counsellors extremely quickly and will always check up on you. Alternatively, the porters are lovely and will always have time for a chat!


How did you find the application process? 

As long as you stay on top of your emails the application process is super easy. The admissions team were also really lovely and helpful and responded to emails quickly if I ever had a question.

A group of friends stood in the Buttery
A formal where we all dressed up as our friends

I don’t think I really had many expectations of the interview. I suppose it was the first proper interview I’ve ever done so it was easier for me not to get worked up about what it might be like and form preconceptions. Saying that, I did of course still prepare for it lots including practice interviews!

To prepare, I did quite a lot of research around the general subject of architecture so I felt I knew the basics but also did further research into the areas that I found really interesting. This definitely helps you gain understanding as well as form your own opinion on architecture- definitely express this confidently! Additionally, I read a few books that focused more on the theory and philosophy of architecture which not only are very interesting but were useful! I also did a couple of practice interviews that I set up myself with an architect I met doing work experience. This was definitely the most beneficial thing I did. Even if it’s just with a friend or parent, practising in an interview-like situation was incredibly useful.

I think I actually preferred the interview being online as I got to choose where I did it, meaning I was somewhere I felt comfortable which calmed the nerves a little. It all ran smoothly and felt as though it was a regular in-person interview.

My advice for prospective applicants would be to show your passion for architecture! Really look into the parts that interest you and show your opinion on them.

Easter term pavillion build project
A tunnel made by the architecture students Two students in a structure made from paper/cloth, sticks and cable ties, looking at some sheets of paper


How did you prepare for your admissions assessment?

I combined preparation for the short essay with the research I did for the interview, so having knowledge of architecture and current topics in the architecture world is useful. There are also some specimin papers on the course page. For the drawing task I just kept a sketch book and practised drawing the spaces around me and some of my favourite buildings.


How did you find settling in at Cambridge? 

A large group in front of the wyseria plants in first court.

Before I came, I was mostly looking forward to meeting new people, getting 'the Cambridge Experience' and starting a new course. However, I was terrified about leaving home and being away from my family!

In terms of friends and the College, I settled in very quickly as it is such a lovely environment. I really missed home and struggled with that for a lot of the first term, but this is natural and I promise the feeling does go away!

One of the things that surprised me about starting at Cambridge is that everyone is so normal! And you do have a lot of fun. I'm still not used to some of the strange traditions though (but love them all the same!).


How did you find starting lectures and supervisions?

A group of friends with christmassy headwear and formal dress
A "Bridgemas" (Cambridge Christmas) formall dinner

I found starting lectures and supervisions a little strange at first as it’s a completely different style of teaching but I actually enjoy it. I really like supervisions as they are a great way to clarify anything you don’t understand and have a really productive discussion.


What are the best and hardest things about your course? 

You get to be so creative and design pretty much whatever you like. Drawing and modelling is a lot more fun than exam questions! Architecture is such a sociable course so most of the time you’re working with friends.

However, it is a very time consuming course and you have to learn to take criticism as a way to learn and improve rather than be offended by it!

Looking back over the year, I feel I have gained much more confidence in myself and my work. And what I have produced has definitely improved!

Some examples of Anna's work at Cambridge

What does your timetable look like? 

We have 'Studio days' twice a week, with studio tutorials. There are around seven lectures a week, and between one and three supervisions a week - usually one but sometimes more, depending on how lectures fell. 

The role of a tutor is similar to that of a supervisor like every other subject has, however they focus exclusively on design/ studio work. There are 6 first year tutors (you meet with 2 per week) who discuss your design work with you either individually or in small groups. They are very helpful and definitely ask them questions if you're unsure of anything! Naturally they will have their own opinion on your work but talking on and experimenting with any feedback really helps you to develop and improve studio work.

Supervisions take place for History and Theory once every week and slightly less for construction and structures depending on the lecture timetable and supervisor. Tutorials and supervisions are basivcally ways to clarify understanding o topics you've looked at that week and have a more of an in depth discussion in smaller groups. Often you will be given some reading or some questions to do before the supervision but these don't tend to be too long and again are a good way to clarify anything you don't understand during the supervision. Tutorials are similar but focus only on studio design work.


How do you manage your workload? 

Time management is SO important with Architecture! Don’t leave things until the last minute! Make sure you have down time, whether that’s going on a night out or just chilling with friends- otherwise you’ll burn out and find it more difficult to find inspiration or be creative.


Drawing board on a picnic bench in front of the Stevenson building in Third court
Working in the sun in Third court

Where do you typically like to work?

I go between the studio, my room and study rooms. I get bored in one place and try not to stay working in my room all day as it can get claustrophobic.


What have you enjoyed most about life at Christ's this year?

I love that everyone is so lovely and inclusive. It really feels like home when I'm on my way back from a busy day. The whole college has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, and I especially like the Fellows' Garden and the pool.

Also, last year, I lived in the top floor of the Y building in Third court and LOVED it. 


What do you do when you're not working?

I spend as much time as possible with my friends- whether this involves going out or just chilling. We love a movie night in the TV room.

During the holidays, after a few days' rest,  I try to get any course work done at the start of the holidays so that I have the last few weeks to relax (so important after a busy term) and spend time with my family and home friends.


What are you most looking forward to next year? 

Five students in formal outfits in front of greeneryI can't wait to live in a house on Jesus Lane (owned by College, and a four minute walk from the main site) with my friends! And getting to choose studios and lecture courses that I'm really interested in, so I'll have a lot more freedom. 



September 2022
Please be aware if you're considering an application that our student writers describe their experiences. Although the majority of the information stays the same, some details may change from year to year. Do read the student profiles in combination with our undergraduate admissions pages for full information.

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