Roz is from Luton in the south-east of England, and wrote this at the end of her second year studying Human, Social and Political Sciences here at Christ's College, Cambridge. At school Roz studied History, Philosophy & Ethics, and Government & Politics at A-level.
What attracted you to your course and College?
I think it was the variation. I applied for History and Philosophy at other universities. I eventually picked Christs and HSPS because I realised that I didn’t want to specialise so soon and I liked being able to learn a wide range of things and picking my own options. I also loved Christ's because when I walked in I was just like - yes, I can see myself here (and because of how close it was to food and shops).
How did you find the application process?
New, very new and personally quite stressful. I think the problem was just not really knowing how the admissions process worked, and doing it on my own rather than having much support from teachers was difficult. There is good advice and support directly from Christ's though (look at the info about the current students section or email Kristy, Jan and Ellie in the office), and I found that once I got through to the post-interview stage it was easier because I had a sense of what I was working towards.
What advice would you give sixth formers considering HSPS?
Don't worry too much about subject requirements - although in for other courses the requirements can be quite strict, for HSPS there are no specific A-level subject requirements and it's just the general advice. They do have recommendations for HSPS but there’s not a ‘right’ set of A-levels to do and if the course interests you just apply. Don’t be put off by other people’s opinions, just pick a course you’re invested in.
Are there any books / resources that you’d recommend for prospective students?
I think, if you’re looking towards the politics side of HSPS I’d dabble in like political thought areas, so Marx, Weber – even just summaries would be great if you're looking at sociology especially. If you're looking at politics read into Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes, and then just areas which interest you in particular, you can’t just play to one aspect of the course – it has to be something you’re interested in.
What papers did you study this year?
I did a straight politics and international relations track. The papers I picked were International Organisation (POL3); Comparative Politics (POL4); a long essay paper on Conceptual Issues (POL5), where I covered the contentions between technology and politics, and the role of think tanks respectively; and POL8 which was on the History of Political Thought. Though I didn’t think I’d like it at first, I fell in love with History of Political Thought, because it was all the things I liked rolled up into one. I chose this single track course because I knew I wanted to just do politics and I liked the coursework aspect. Sometimes I get flustered in exams and I liked having a project I could work on. I think my coursework was probably my favourite thing that I worked on this year. Specifically the essay on technology because it’s a very new type of thinking.
All the teaching is done in supervisions and lectures. We had two seminars this year for the POL3 module. I had about six lectures a week - that’s at an hour each. Some days I wouldn’t have any lectures and that varied throughout the term depending on which topics you wanted to do. For supervisions, I had on average two a week but deadlines for HSPS can be erratic so one week you’d have nothing, and you could have five deadlines the next week. Compared to first year, I think the workload got lighter, but the deadlines got a little more erratic in general - however it does teach you to make sure you can work efficiently when needed, and it can be nice when you've got a bit more time for a particular piece of work.
How do you manage your workload and balance it with your social life?
I struggled at first but I think the most important part of properly settling in at Cambridge is finding your feet and figuring out what works for you personally. So in terms of managing my workload, one of the first things I learnt to do was ask for help. And for my essays I try to balance my reading around what I can reasonably do. I usually work in the College library, since it's so close. For a supervision you can’t read everything (university-level reading lists are long!), but I try to be selective and I think that’s helped. As for meeting deadlines, I definitely start my work in advance if I can – which, I think has particularly mattered this year compared with last year, just because first year was a bit more structured. It also matters that the pastoral care, particularly from College, is really useful – the tutors have been great and the counselling service is good as well.
What have you most enjoyed so far about your time at Christ’s?
I think just getting to know a new place and new people, and getting thrown into – not the deep end - but just sort of like a crazy place with new people from different backgrounds in different parts of the world.
I also lived in Jesus Lane this year and I absolutely loved it. I think the nice divide from College for a year was a different kind of vibe from College and it allowed me to feel like I had even more freedom and independence as a young adult.
What do you do when you’re not working?
SLEEP! But also drama, sports and music. I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with two plays during my time here; a College drama society performance of the Tempest (set in space!), and I was fortunate enough to be cast in Cambridge’s largest all-black theatre performance of ‘Fences’ by August Wilson. Although, again, this required a lot organisation, I cannot recommend the Cambridge Theatre scene highly enough! There’s a place for everyone and they really welcome newcomers.
The College also offers a number of sports teams – for example, I’ve loved playing College lacrosse - and opportunities for music. The music practice room is available for anyone to use, and its been great taking my guitar there to have a sing and wind down.
In the holidays I like doing all the relaxation stuff. I try not to watch TV shows too much during term because I’ll get too invested, but when I'm home, I can relax with and binge whatever show I'm watching. I also work as a tutor for people near me.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming years?
In Cambridge, I'm really looking forward to doing something a bit more immersive in third year, because it is the last year and I will have a bit more free time to just really have some fun and find something I really want to do. Also graduating! It'll be bittersweet but really cool. Paper-wise, I’m really quite excited to actually study African politics for the first time in my life.
After Cambridge, I’m considering a couple of options – Graduate Diploma in Law (a law conversion course), working for human rights or consulting!
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.