A woman holding a bottle of Alpro soya milk as though it were a baby, smiling at it affectionately.
             Katie, second year

Katie is from Ruskington in Lincolnshire, in the East Midlands of England, and wrote this at the end of her second year studying English here at Christ’s College, Cambridge. At school, Katie sat A-Levels in English Literature, Classical Civilisation and French.

 

Why did you choose English at Cambridge?

The thing that attracted me to the Cambridge English course was its simultaneous breadth and depth. In the first two years (Part I) you’ll learn about literature from 1300 to the current year, giving you a really solid grounding in the subject for when you start specialising and

"I walked through the main gate on an Open Day, saw First Court with beautiful flowerboxes under the windows, and knew that Christ’s was where I wanted to live and work during my time at Cambridge."

Katie

Two female students in the porters lodge of Christ's College, Cambridge.What do you think of the collegiate system in general?

Although I don’t often visit other Colleges, I think the system is really useful, especially in your first term. You arrive at College with a relatively small group of people, and the events organised by your College throughout Freshers’ Week are both fun and a brilliant way to get to know them.

In practical terms, Colleges are great because they allow you to live and work in the same peaceful space. Christ’s does allow tourists to visit the college during term time, but it’s far less busy than the city centre. Cambridge itself is

How did you find the application process?

I found the application process a bit stressful, although once I was offered an interview I found the Cambridge side of things very efficient. Applicants to Oxbridge have an early UCAS deadline (usually October 15), and Cambridge applicants must then complete the additional questionnaire(s) within a few days. Although I made sure I got everything done by the deadlines, the fact that my school doesn’t send many people to Oxbridge meant that they often weren’t able to support or advise me throughout the process. Because of this, my UCAS application

"The ELAT was the first completely unrestricted essay I’d written, and I really enjoyed the challenge."

Katie
Three young women in gold paper crowns smiling at the camera.
With friends at a Christmas dinner in Christ's

How did you prepare for your interview?

I mostly prepared for my interview by getting to know my personal statement, and the books I had mentioned in it, really well. English Literature is such a subjective field of study that there isn’t any one book which will make you a stand-out candidate. Having said that, anthologies of critical thought such as the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism might be useful in giving you an overview of major critical movements which might not be covered at A-Level.

One thing I would advise you to do is read things that interest you, not things you

Students mingling and chatting

Before you came to Cambridge, what were you looking forward to and what were you most worried about?

I was looking forward to the freedom of university! I'd only ever lived in a small Midlands village before I got to Cambridge (fun fact: there is not a single motorway in Lincolnshire), and the sheer amount of stuff that’s available in the city is amazing. There’s everything from parks to museums to a market in the square seven days a week. The idea that I could go to the shops at 10pm if I wanted was a completely new one.

I was probably most worried about living away from home for the

"The sheer amount of stuff that’s available in the city is amazing - there’s everything from parks to museums to a market in the square seven days a week."

Katie
A group of young men and women with chimney cake in Prague
              Without chimney cake in Prague

What are your favourite memories of Fresher’s week?

There are loads! On the evening of the day we arrived in Cambridge, all the Christ’s freshers had dinner in the Hall. It wasn’t a formal dinner, and everyone was in jeans and t-shirts, but it was still the grandest place I’ve ever eaten. During the dinner I met my ‘college brothers’. In Cambridge there’s an unofficial tradition of ‘college families’, where two second years (‘college parents’) look after some freshers (their ‘college children’) in the first few weeks of term. I ended up becoming really good friends with them - we lived in

How does your teaching work?

English students tend to study two main subjects per term in Part I – a paper covering a particular time period, and Practical Criticism, a subject specific to Cambridge. Practical Criticism essentially involves looking solely at the text of a particular extract, discarding its context and focusing on the use of language and style. For each subject we have one hour-long supervision a week, so the average week has two supervisions. You tend to write one 1500 word essay every two weeks for Practical Criticism, and one 2000 word essay per week for the period paper

"The best thing about the course is undoubtedly the freedom that comes with the amount of independent reading that you’re expected to do."

Katie
Rocket, the college cat of Christ's College, Cambridge, stretching out on a bed.
             Rocket, the college cat, is very good at
             calming down stressed students

How do you manage your workload?

I’m the kind of person who tends to focus on work above other things, and I’ve sometimes struggled to allow myself time to enjoy being at Cambridge. I tend to save more time-consuming extracurriculars, like theatre, for the first two terms and then cut down on what I do in exam term. Throughout the year, I volunteer as a Christ’s Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and helping out at events such as Open Days or interviews. Tours are usually only half an hour long, so they fit into my day well, and walking around college with a group of students

A student helper giving prospective students a tour of Christ's College, Cambridge.
CReps give tours to prospective students on Open Days

Are you involved with any student initiatives, societies or sports in Cambridge?

As I mentioned, I’m a Christ’s Rep, which I started doing pretty much as soon as I arrived in Cambridge. As someone who struggled a bit with lack of support during the admissions process, I think it's really important to get involved with access projects and try and help other students in the same position. 

I’m also involved with Christ’s Amateur Dramatics Society (CADS) – in my first year I was the Secretary, and this year I was Vice President, which means I’m in charge of organising all the productions

How do you spend your holidays?

I live about an hour and a half from college, so I tend to go home during the long and short vacations. However, I try and pick Category C rooms, which allow you to leave as much stuff as you’d like in your room during the holidays as long as you tidy it into drawers or wardrobes. This is just to allow the rooms to be cleaned, and they won't be opened outside of term so your stuff is completely safe. I find this really useful for things like my ever-growing collection of mugs, which I can't take home because that would mean admitting how many I own.

I

A man (left) and two women (centre and right) at the Cambridge Union Garden Party at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.What are you most looking forward to next year?

So many things! Next year will be my last in Cambridge (as a student at least), so I’d really like to make the most of how easy it is to spend time with my friends at College, and how beautiful the city is. I’m going to try and go to the ADC (and the pub) more than I did this year, and I’m also really looking forward to the Christ’s May Ball (which is held every other year).

In academic terms, I’m doing one optional paper and two dissertations on top of the mandatory Tragedy and Prac Crit papers in third year. I’m taking Paper 7 (Early