Meet Frankie at the University of Cambridge!
Name: Frankie Finn Reason
University: University of Cambridge
Degree: English Literature Tripos
Current Year of Study: 1st year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
I’m very lucky in that I was quite a decisive little girl. I must have been as young as eleven when I first decided that I wanted to study at Cambridge. It was heralded as one of the best universities in the world, and at the time I had just moved from London to a small countryside town in New Zealand, and was already missing my home. To me, Cambridge represented a return to England and was the promise of all of those quintessentially English traditions that I missed so much. I spent the next ten years being warned that my goal was going to be very difficult to achieve, and so I collated a whole list of amazing universities, all of which I would have been very privileged to study at, but ultimately it was Cambridge that I was working towards.
I also knew from the get-go that I wanted to read English Literature. My father is a journalist, and my mother a librarian, and both studied English before me. Growing up surrounded by books meant that it was a very natural decision. Of course, I wavered when I was around seventeen, and toyed with psychology instead, as I’d always had a penchant for maths and biology, but I spent a spring visiting the various English universities that offered psychology, and as I began to actually visualise myself studying, I realised that I would regret not committing to my original passion – English.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
One of the characteristic features of the Oxbridge programme is that they offer a lot of one-on-one learning opportunities, which has already been invaluable. During these regular supervisions we have the opportunity to work through any aspects of the course that we’re finding particularly challenging, and given we kicked off this year with mediaeval literature, I’ve found that support to be a real boon!
What do you enjoy most about living in Cambridge?
The people, the architecture, the green spaces. I’ve been really fortunate in placing at an incredibly friendly college. I met some of my closest friends on the very first day I arrived, and we have a wonderful common area where everyone comes to unwind after sometimes mind-numbingly long days of academics. If my friends and I are feeling restless, we go for a wander through town, or punt down the Cam. Despite Cambridge being relatively small, I’m still a little awestruck by my surroundings – its beauty never gets old.
Equally, whatever your passions/hobbies, there’s something for everyone. I was very intimidated by Cambridge’s theatre scene when I first arrived (Footlights is, of course, notorious), but there’s such an abundance of shows on that it’s hard NOT to get into one if you’re that way inclined. There’s also a sport for every day of the year, and a wealth of societies. People will tell you that it’s too hard to balance academics and clubs, but if you’re passionate enough about it all, I wouldn’t say this is the case. You’ll be running around like a headless chicken, sure, but it pays out in fun times.
How supportive is your university to international students?
As far as I’m aware, I would say very. I’m in an awkward position of being both international, and a home student, so I wouldn’t want to answer this with too much authority, but from what I’ve experienced there’s always someone you can go to who will have a solution for any practical challenges you might be having. The international community at Cambridge is also enormous. My college is made up of over 50% international students, and so even if you’re from all the way across the other side of the world (in my case, New Zealand) there’s always a friendly face who has a similar story to yours.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university so far?
To be honest, my most frightening and challenging experience was waiting for that acceptance letter. Meeting new people is always daunting, but I found that my fears were completely unfounded. Obviously everybody will have different experiences of moving to a new place and getting settled in, but even if you’re struggling, I would suggest that there’s always going to be someone you can lean on – I know that I’ve found that to be the case.
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
I play football once a week, I’ve joined my college student committee, and I’m currently finding my feet in the musical theatre scene. I also sing for a college choir three times a week, so I suppose quite a lot! But I love it all, and though it can be a bit of a juggling act sometimes, I can’t imagine giving anything up. It’s so easy to get involved with extracurriculars at Cam, you almost fall into things. There’s a massive student societies fair during freshers week that will open your eyes to all the things you can get involved with that you never even imagined doing previously.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
The university holds your hand through every step of finding accommodation, just so long as you get on to it early enough. Emails will be sent out at the same time as offers to ask you to grade your accommodation preferences, and in just a few short surveys you’re pretty much guaranteed somewhere to live. Fortunately my college offers accommodation right the way through term holidays, and across all three years, but this will vary between colleges.
My accommodation is fairly run of the mill because, like many students, I’m on a budget, but it’s comfortable, and it’s in the college’s central building which means I’m right in the hubbub of college life, which I love. My room is lovely, and looks out over the city – single bed, sink, big desk, and masses of wardrobe space – and the showers are spick and span. The only drawback would be the shared kitchen which can get a little grim, but I spend most of my time hanging out with my mates in the dining room so it’s never really been an issue.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working world and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
The first place I encountered the careers service at Cambridge was at the freshers fair, and I immediately signed up to a whole host of mailing lists from which I receive torrents of emails. I’ve yet to properly engage with the service, because it’s still early days, but they’re in regular contact and from what I’ve seen of the emails, have masses of opportunities for students. An excellent bit of advice I once received was to get in early with the careers office, and I thoroughly intend to do this in the upcoming term.
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
Cambridge has short, intense terms, which means long holidays full of opportunities for travel. Equally, a lot of Cambridge societies host trips at various stages throughout the year. I’m lucky enough to be looking forward to a choir trip to Rome in July, and my friend has similarly just returned from a Rugby trip to Italy. In fact, the European Theatre Group tours a student Shakespeare play right the way around Europe, so there’s really quite a lot of travel on the cards, both independent and when you’re involved with societies.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to the University of Cambridge and the UK to study?
- My absolute number one, if you have settled on Cambridge, would be to get stuck in. There are so many facets to student life at Cam, and though you’ll make fast friends within your college, joining societies is an amazing way to meet new faces, and to get more of an inter-collegiate experience.
- Another thing that I would suggest, just on an entirely practical level, is look into what scholarships are available. This was something I never thought to do, and I have since found out there are a ridiculous number of them, some with incredibly obscure criteria, just waiting to be snapped up. It’s always a relief to have a little extra financial security!
- Thirdly, some colleges are much more international than others, and I’ve found it really comforting (and interesting) to be surrounded by people who have similarly international backgrounds, so I would suggest doing a quick google to figure out which college you think would suit you best. Cambridge is very diverse, and different environments suit different people, so it’s definitely worth looking into.
Don’t let uncertainty dissuade you! I’ve already loved every moment of my Cambridge experience, and I’ve only been a student for a term!