Barnaby wrote this just after completing the pre-clinical Medicine course here at Christ's College, Cambridge. Barnaby is from Gainsborough in the East Midlands of England, and at school he did A-levels in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
How easy did you find it to choose a university course?
Very easy – I knew that I wanted to be a medic from a very young age, and Cambridge always seemed like an amazing place to study. I loved/love medicine, and completed lots of work experience to assure myself of this.
I liked Cambridge because of its academic standards, the fact that we performed full-body dissection, the collegiate system and the chances to do further study and research. Other big factors that made the Cambridge course itself stand out to me were the league table rankings, the distinct division between pre-clinical and clinical medicine, and the opportunity to intercalate in third year (here, you can specialise in one of a wide range of other subjects offered by the University (sometimes known elsewhere as intercalation) in your third year in order to qualify for the BA degree).
How did you choose your College?
Originally I looked at Christ’s because it was the first alphabetically! I came on an Open Day, and immediately felt at home as I stepped into the College. The staff and student helpers were very friendly. Later on, I looked up Christ’s academic rankings in medicine and saw that they were very good, further convincing me to apply. I absolutely loved my time at Christ’s as an undergraduate, and am determined to keep well-connected and associated with the College that I love, and all the people I met here.
What advice would you give sixth formers considering an application for Medicine?
Medicine is a subject that really requires work experience beforehand, ideally in a range of medical settings (care home, hospital, general practice etc.) I think this is vital so that you can gain an accurate understanding of just what the vocation could entail. It’s also nice to find out if you can deal with blood, bodily fluids, the reality of death and disease before you commit to several years of study!
Are there any books / resources that you’d recommend?
Online health news and current affairs is really handy for interview, such as the BBC News Health section, New Scientist, Student BMJ and the BMA website. I know other medics read books like “The Emperor of Maladies”, but I didn’t bother with this and I got in so it really isn't vital!
What was third year like?
Well it was very different from first year for me, as I spent the year studying Zoology! This involved lectures, a research paper review, a two-term research project and subsequent write-up and presentation, and four exams at the end of the year. I had a lot less timetabled time than in first and second year so I was expected to organise myself a lot more. The research project was also pretty much self-directed. First year had all of the marks made up from exams, and was a lot more structured.
This year, I studied two papers on evolutionary ecology (one on human evolutionary ecology, and one on behavioural ecology), and two others on cell differentiation and organogenesis, and cell assembly and interaction. I chose these as they were very different to each other (from a subcellular to a societal level of organism), and they really interested me! I particularly enjoyed my behavioural ecology module, as I’ve never had the opportunity to learn about animals in that way before!
How do you organise your time?
In my first two years I wasn’t particularly organised, but in the last year I used Google Calendar to put all of my deadlines on my phone and laptop, and used Google Notes to create lots of lists of things that I needed to complete or wanted to look up. This has really helped me!
For exam term this year I was a lot more methodical – I had typed notes on most lectures, but over the holidays I completed any missing lectures and added to my notes. I also created decks of flashcards using the Anki app to test me on remembering case studies and definitions. Exam term was OK overall – I was pleasantly surprised at my preparation for exams, but due to external stresses and illness I missed one of my exams. Hopefully it turns out OK!
Have you been able to manage a reasonable balance of work and other things you wanted to do?
Yes, I think so! For example, this year I coxed the women’s first boat for Christ’s, spent time with friends, had a girlfriend, played in jazz band and some other music groups, and had a very good time!
What have you most enjoyed about your time at Christ’s?
I’ve really enjoyed the community and the group of friends that I’ve built up over my time here. I think that we have one of the best atmospheres/ethos of any College, and it’s a really supportive environment in which to live and learn. I really like the little green space to the side and back of Y, with Hobson’s Conduit, the tree and the lawn creating a really relaxing and peaceful area that’s tucked out of the way.
I also lived in New Court Staircase 4 – they’re amazing rooms, and I loved having the space, as well as the bath in the en suite!
Did you receive any particular support from College during your degree?
I received financial support in the form of the Rent Rebate. I also had good support from my tutor and the College nurse following my missed exam due to illness, which was invaluable.
How was your May Week?
I went to Christ’s May Ball, Downing Tribal, Christ’s Boat Club Dinner and a host of garden parties. I went punting several times with friends, and we spent a lot of time together.
Looking back over your time at Cambridge, what do you feel like you have gained from being here?
My first degree, fantastic friends, a lot of learning experiences and subsequent growth as a person, and an incredibly enjoyable three years!
I’ve really enjoyed some of my and my friends’ fancy dress costumes for bops and other events! Having all of my friends so nearby is probably what I'll miss most about Christ's!
Is there anything you would change about how you tackled life here?
I’m overall very content with my life approach here – maybe I should have structured my life better in the first two years, but I don’t worry about it too much.
What comes next for you?
Clinical school: another three years in Cambridge! I think that there’s a lot of support at Cambridge for careers – I heard about it more when I was in third year as the zoologists perhaps need more direction than NHS-bound medics, and it seems to be comprehensive and well-informed. After that I’m now considering pursuing a much wider range of future careers after Cambridge, thanks to the opportunities that I’ve been given here.
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.