Tom is from Pocklington in East Yorkshire (North-East England), and wrote this at the end of his first year of the three-year Classics course here at Christ's College, Cambridge. At school, Tom did A-levels in Latin, History, French and Maths.

What attracted you to your course?

Tom Profile Pic
Tom

I know that some people choose to study Classics because they can’t decide on a specific subject: with Classics you don’t have to decide, because the course is so broad, including languages, literature, history, philosophy, art… But in my case, I knew from before I did GCSE's that I wanted to do Classics – I’ve been

What do you think of the collegiate system in general?

Third Court  with flowers in the foreground
  Third Court

The collegiate system has had such a positive impact on my time so far. Being part of a smaller community within the mass of the university makes it so much easier to feel like you belong. It’s an automatic way of meeting people – all the events in Freshers’ Week, your neighbours, and just bumping into people around College. Being in a College also makes it so easy to take part in things. I get the impression that the wide variety of extracurriculars is a great strength of Cambridge in general, but uni-wide groups may be harder to get

How did you find the application process?

I actually quite enjoyed applying! It was the first time that I was reading things based on what I was interested in, rather than what a teacher told me to. Applying increased my enthusiasm for Classics – initially, I was doing all this extra reading because I knew that’s what I needed to do for my application, but then I found that I actually enjoyed reading more about Classics, and it really motivated me.
 

Was the interview what you expected it to be?

There was lots of information about what form the interview would take on the Christ’s

"The interview was like a taste of what Cambridge can be like, and I loved it!"

Tom

What advice would you give students about the application?

I think it’s best not to think in terms of preparing for the interview specifically, rather of preparing for the application in general – the same things will help in the personal statement as well as the interview. My best advice is just to read things that you enjoy! If you enjoy your A level set text, read the rest of the work in English; if you don’t, think about why and read what you wish you were studying instead. If you’re interested in history, philosophy, art, literature, read something about that. If you don’t know what

"More important than the reading is thinking about what you read."

Tom

Did you find it easy to settle in?

Second Court with people walking up path
  Second Court

It definitely took me the first term to find my feet. Although it was very easy to meet people, making friends can be harder. It really helped that I joined the choir straight away, because that gave me a way to get to know people better which I might not have had otherwise. Also, my College Family really helped (like every first year I got two College Parents from second year, along with two or three other freshers who were therefore my siblings!). It was so reassuring to have someone to ask those questions which you know are small but you still worry about

What is different with your work now, compared to what you experienced at school?

Punting on the river Cam
Punting

Some things that I do are similar to what I did at school – for example unseen translation exercises. I also still spend lots of time learning vocab – but whereas at school this was a set list, now it’s from lists I’ve made myself while reading. Reading is one of the biggest changes from school; the amount of text I’ve read this year is almost unbelievably more than I read in my whole time at school! I’m also still writing essays, but they’re very different to the ones at school (although more similar to my

How does your teaching work?

Supervisor sitting cross-legged on a red chairIf, like me, you haven’t done A-level Greek, then every morning you have a Greek class in the faculty where you are helped to read the set texts (there’s a lot!). After that, there’s lectures – there’s two or three a day, and at first you go to them all to see what you enjoy. When you’ve chosen your options you have a couple fewer lectures to go to. I almost never missed a lecture for a course I was taking, but some people don’t find them as useful so don’t go to as many. Lectures are all in the mornings, leaving afternoons for supervisions, working or doing

"Managing your workload is as much about making work efficient and knowing when to stop as it is about fitting it in."

Tom

Where do you typically like to work?

I tried working in the Christ’s library but found it didn’t work for me. Mostly I try to stay in the Classics faculty library weekday afternoons after morning classes and lectures – it’s spacious, light and inspiring as the researchers, including some famous faces (Mary Beard!), work there too. When I’m getting fed up of there I go upstairs to the Cast Gallery and work sitting on a sofa surrounded by huge classical statues. Towards the end of the year I went to the University Library a couple of times to work. It’s so huge that it’s easy to find a corner

Tom Performing

What do you do when you’re not working?

I’ve got involved in lots of extracurricular activities this year! By far the most significant in terms of time is the Chapel Choir. We sing two evensongs a week and have a rehearsal on another day, so Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons are blocked out. It’s quite a big time commitment, but I absolutely love it! I met a lot of my friends in choir, and because we get free formal dinners after services I basically have two nights of timetabled socialising in my week, which is great as it’s easy to forget when you’re so busy. No

Z Building

Where have you lived this year?

I lived in Z building. The old Cambridge town hall: it’s grand outside with very wide staircases and corridors, but has slightly less up-to-date rooms than in New Court. My room suited me really well though – it was quite big, with a sink in the room. I shared a bathroom, which was never a problem. My room’s window looked out onto Hobson Street rather than into College – the good news is I felt connected to the world outside College and always had things to look at; the bad news is it was noisy, especially on a Friday night (the flip side of being so close to

Formal Hall

What are you most looking forward to next year?

Next year I’m going to be living in one of the College-owned houses on Jesus Lane, really near College. I’m so excited to have a different, more “normal” student experience of living in a house with my friends. One of the most difficult things last year was that sometimes I wouldn’t see my friends for a couple of days because we lived in different parts of College and were so busy, so I can’t wait to see them all the time (although I’m going to get so distracted!). I’m looking forward to experiencing a year in Cambridge knowing from experience

"I’m so excited to have a different, more “normal” student experience of living in a house with my friends."

Tom

Do you know which papers you’ll be taking next year?

I’m finding it hard to choose my papers, because so many of the options look really great! In the second year of Classics (Part 1B), we carry on reading lots of literature, but this year get more of a choice. Since I enjoy drama, I loved reading Greek tragedy last year and am looking forward to continuing next year with the “Athens on Stage” option. Beyond literature, I’ve chosen to continue Philosophy and History. In History, I’m going to study the Roman Emperor option; having lectures in first year from as-seen-on-TV Mary Beard was a

First court
First Court, Christ's College

Looking back over the year, what do you feel you have got out of it?

I’ve learnt to be confident: that my opinions matter, that I can express them in writing and by talking. I’ve got to the point where sometimes I can really read, not just translate, a text written over 2000 years ago. I’ve met some of the world’s leading academics in Classics, I’ve learnt so much from them and very occasionally made them think too. I’ve had the most wonderful conversations putting the world to rights over dinner, when I’ve learnt how to disagree without any hard feelings, to understand where other points