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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What is it like studying abroad in Cambridge University? Awesome first-year experience shared

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One Year in Cambridge University

Posted by Celine Wan

This post is to recount the events that have happened to me during my first year in the UK, and maybe some musings, after reflecting my time in Cambridge.

Forgive the grammar because I did not put in much effort in proof reading and I have not been writing for a long time. 95% of my time in university is to do maths or some science-y thing. The other 5% is—drawing and writing things in simple English.

Matriculation as an official Cantabrigian
Matriculation as an official Cantabrigian

Michaelmas Term 2013

This is my very first term of formal education after two and a half years of leaving college. All in all I am surprised that I could fit in quite easily, maybe because I took a month off just to refresh my mind in Physics and Chemistry. Maths was something I didn’t really “abandoned” so there was no need for a major revision session.

The first term was obviously the adjustment period. Michaelmas was essentially the best and worst time in UK because everything was completely new from settling down to getting used to the weather and academic system. Best also because that's the time when you're pumped with excitement from the new environment and awed by the beauty of Cambridge. Even though it was a steep learning curve to settle down (I kept getting lost from cycling in Cambs because I HAVE A BAD SENSE OF DIRECTION), the privilege to be studying in one of the best universities in the world overrides them all. I was that happy girl with an unbroken spirit.

I think I was a little bit obsessed with the academic gown.
I think I was a little bit obsessed with the academic gown.

PS – The skinniest moment before right when I entered UK.

Winter Break 2013/2014

I had my first trip to a European country.  This was a one-week trip to Italy: Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Vatican City. It was an unforgettable memory indeed, and so far, I find this my best trip ever in my first year in the UK. After all, the places I've visited there feel like a dream come true since the places are like the background scenes I see in movies. Winter break was also a very, very stressful time because I took my mocks exam very seriously. Christmas and New Year in London was amazing too. Words cannot describe the first time feeling of truly celebrating and enjoying oneself overseas.

A winter night in Florence/ Firenze.
A winter night in Florence/ Firenze.

Lent Term 2014

The first part of Lent was really cold because it's below 5 degrees on average, and can go down to negative 1 or 2 degrees. I don't like it because I need to cycle everywhere-- imagine waking up and seeing ice crystals on your bicycle seats! It was depressingly gloomy since sun sets at 4pm. Easter was harder because I had theatrical plays to juggle with and had a lot of humbling lessons to learn along the way.

The last part of spring felt very cheery because sun sets at a much later time and colourful flowers started popping up! The weather got a bit warmer and I cannot help but to smile when I walk outside. All in all I got much more used to the Cambridge system and know what to expect out of myself.

Easter Break 2014

I went to Portugal: Porto and Lisbon with my Singaporean friends. I revised the whole Michaelmas and Lent but at a much more relaxed pace than last winter. Sort of regret it to be honest. Spent most of my time in London and watched the Game of Thrones. Generally happier than Winter Break but the intensity of happiness last winter was much, much higher due to the novelty of living overseas during a festive season.

Easter Term 2014

Stressful times. This is my exam period time and definitely the MOST DEPRESSING AND STRESSFUL term. This is the time when I cursed my fate of being in Cambs. My exam started the last and also ended the last compared to everyone across universities and courses. Weather was much better though I started skipping lectures to revise. Imagine having to force-feed new information while having your finals exams like 10 days later? Now that I've survived Easter Term, something tells me that Michaelmas in my second year would be much smoother. Easter in general is the hardest term.
End of Easter is obviously the best. That's the time you box everything up, attend May Balls, and generally have nothing to be stressed about! By then the first thing I wanted to do was GET OUT OF CAMBRIDGE. By the time I finished exams, I had a temporary existential crisis while spending my first day of holidays watching two movies: Maleficent and X Men.

That feeling of freedom CANNOT be forgotten. It tasted too good.

Privileged to attend the St John's MayBall 2014: Lost Worlds. MayBalls in Cambs have been regarded as one of the top ten best parties in the world!
Privileged to attend the St John's MayBall 2014: Lost Worlds. MayBalls in Cambs have been regarded as one of the top ten best parties in the world!

Summer Break 2014

3 months and this is still the present. I'm in Malaysia now and I still haven't eaten everything I missed! Even the food I've eaten is only once? That's not enough! This is partly because I'm interning and I previously travelled to Prague before coming back. I only have a month to travel and totally relax before going back to UK in October! I notice that I've changed and the people around me too. How a year can change people and surroundings rather significantly. Ever since I started travelling around Europe, I plan to travel around Malaysia for a bit, starting this September.

Prague. I'm finally able to wear short sleeved clothes again. Notice the weight difference from first term.
Prague. I'm finally able to wear short sleeved clothes again. Notice the weight difference from first term.

My one year in the UK so far was a total eye opening adventure: bittersweet but delicious all the same. After having some time off reading my personal diary, I really shouldn't be complaining about how stressed I've chosen my life path to be: I do it because I can. I am really lucky and fortunate to be who I am right now and I thank God for that. I'm going to relax this summer and enjoy the journey that lies ahead as a second year Chemical Engineering student in Cambridge come this October!
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  1. Wow. That was really inspiring. Like they said, "Work hard and play hard". Hope you'll send in another entry after your second year~

  2. Celine, thank you so much for sharing the snippets of you life as a Cambridge University student, from a Malaysian student's perspective. A lot of us are not qualified to enter such prestigious university but always wonder what kind of student life people there enjoy. Hope to see more insightful experience like this from you. Thanks again.

  3. Wow! How lucky you are get a chances study abroad especially in Cambridge University! I also want to study abroad after finishing and get my SPM result next year. You gave me inspiration to try study abroad and be an independent person.


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