Shadab is from Cardiff, Wales, and he did A-levels at school. He wrote this at the end of his third year of Natural Sciences (Physical), specialising in Chemistry.
What attracted you to Natural Sciences and to Christ's?
Natural Sciences is not offered that widely. It's a broad course which allows you to choose a number of different modules in science before specialising, allowing you to really engage with a variety of science disciplines and therefore to make an informed decision about which interests to follow. It was this breadth that lead me to choose the course at Cambridge, as though I knew I enjoy science, I am quite indecisive! Most other universities offer straight science courses, including Oxford, which only offers Chemistry in isolation. Although I eventually specialised in Chemistry I wasn’t sure in sixth form that Chemistry was exactly what I wanted to do, so having the choice for two years before specialising was a huge benefit for me.
I chose Christ’s because of the size, location and atmosphere. It’s a medium-small College which means I got to know everyone in my year as well as people in other years. Christ's is also right in the centre of town, which means that nothing is ever too far away, indeed, some might say one or two of of the shops etc. were dangerously close… The atmosphere in Christ’s is extremely friendly. Everyone is so helpful, both students and staff, which made choosing Christ’s a very easy decision.
"The atmosphere in Christ’s is extremely friendly. Everyone is so helpful, both students and staff."
What advice would you give sixth formers thinking about Natural Sciences?
I'd say practice maths problems and explain your answers out loud! It's about how you think, and the reasoning supporting your answers as opposed to your raw knowledge. When I was applying, I looked over some maths notes to prepare.
What papers did you study this year?
My third year papers were all compulsory but had options within them. They ranged from electrochemistry to quantum mechanics and proteins! I chose them because I thought it would be interesting to study different areas of Chemistry, but I did prefer the more biological options.
What was your timetable like this year?
The contact hours felt pretty relaxed this year compared with first and second year. Lectures were recorded which made my timetable a lot more flexible, as I could work whenever and however I wanted. I would normally slot my work time around other extra-curricular activities. I had around three supervisions a week, with ten hours of lectures each week. Labs also occur throughout the week, and depending on the time of year this could mean just a few hours in the lab per week or most days in one! I’d say that some of the labs were quite fun and possibly the most enjoyable part of the year; mixing together various chemicals in scary-looking equipment to make shiny crystals was pretty exciting!
I've found that first year was the most content-heavy and each year after that the contact hours get lighter, which makes things easier. Sometimes work took a lower priority but I always still got things done - typically working in my room. I’ve always done the same amount of non-work things through each year, but by third year I’d also learnt to better manage my time and enjoyed the subject more, so the work seemed less.
"I’ve always done the same amount of non-work things through each year, but by third year I’d also learnt to better manage my time and enjoyed the subject more."
What do you do when you’re not working?
Rowing, singing, dancing, charity work and learning languages! There really is something for everyone, regardless of previous ability.
Meeting a range of different people has probably been my favourite part of life at Christ's. There are so many different friendship groups around, and you can be a part of them all. It’s always nice to experience College life with a range of different people. Having been Access Officer for the College students union (JCR), I ran for elections for the Cambridge Students’ Union and the College really rallied behind me to campaign. We had the highest turnout in the entire university! So Christ's really had my back there.
I actually normally use my holidays to do the work I tend not to do during term time. I always also make sure I chill out, eat my mum’s amazing food, see friends, watch lots of TV and sleep!
"Meeting a range of different people has probably been my favourite part of life at Christ's."
What did being Access Officer on the students' union at Christ's involve?
My job as Access Officer was to help make Christ’s, Cambridge and Higher Education in general feel more accessible to all students who are considering applying to university, no matter what their background.
I worked with both staff and students to provide as much of an insight as possible into student life here at Cambridge, whether that help be academic, social or just developing new-found independence through short residential events or visits. I helped with pretty much all of the residential events available and it was really amazing to see prospective students who visited Christ's experience the College and feel more at ease about life here.
During the interview period, I helped to organise the annual student helpdesk, which alleviates any worries interviewees have on the day of their interviews. It calms interview candidates down to be able to chat with current students here to take their minds off their nerves. I also worked alongside student mentors when we invited sixth-form students to Cambridge for the Cambridge SU Shadowing Scheme, making sure that the experience was as helpful as it possibly can be.
Access is all about equipping prospective students with the confidence to apply to Cambridge, and then supporting them through the application process and life as a Cambridge student. It is vital for current students to get involved in the process, as we were once in the shoes of prospective applicants and can make a dramatic difference to how they see the university.
I would recommend getting in touch with our current JCR Access Officer if you have any concerns about making an application. Romany is the officer this year and you can contact her at email@example.com.
"It was really amazing to see prospective students who visited Christ's experience the College and feel more at ease about life here."
What are your plans for the future?
I’m still not sure. I am currently taking a year out in the Cambridge University Students' Union role I mentioned before as Access and Funding Officer. I might run for another year, I might do a Masters, or I might just leave! I had initially thought I would work in the pharmaceutical industry but during my time at Cambridge I've found things that I want to do more: I think I will either work in the education or charity sector in some form.
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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