These were part of a series of ‘subject masterclasses’ laid on by various faculties within Cambridge University aiming to offer a taste of what lies ahead for those who are starting to think about University applications.
Dr Paul Pattenden writes:
With the troops safely delivered to the ‘drop zone’ near King’s College, and the minibus safely hidden from the army of parking attendants that patrol the centre of Cambridge, I headed off to meet Old Salopians in pursuit of my own masterclasses on the subject of ‘preparation for Cambridge’.
First up were Dan Edwards (S 2010-15) and Sonny Koh (Ch 2010-15) – both third year undergrads, in History and Economics respectively, and actually enjoying ploughing through dozens of books and thousands of words of essays each week. “You have to love working hard, and love your subject,” as both of them clearly do.
With several pages of notes about Dan and Sonny’s ‘academic stories’ safely scribbled for sharing with potential applicants later, it was onwards to Bould Brothers Coffee shop - full and flourishing amidst ferocious competition and undoubtedly the best coffee house in the Shire.
Like all the Salopians I met in Cambridge, Max and Alex (Ch 2006-11) are thriving on hard work and loving life in the centre of this inspiring city.
Enter James Chen (I 2014-16) – a cheerful and chatty first-year Law student and, of course, a Bould Brothers regular. As an overseas student studying the complexities of UK constitutional principles, and indeed Roman law, James is having to put in a huge working week. “My target is to get it down to 45 hours a week, but I am doing a lot more at the moment,” he grinned. James’ advice for prospective applicants: “You have to be personally motivated – and know yourself. If you can’t convince yourself that this is worth doing, then you won’t convince anybody else.” Super advice for anyone aiming high.
Returning to the minibus in the mid-afternoon to scoop up the Lower Sixth Formers after their final masterclass lectures, a very brief sighting of Ursule Taujanskaite (MSH 2013-15) was an unexpected pleasure.
The chatter among the Lower Sixth Formers on the journey home was pleasingly high-brow. The minibus lawyers held court on human rights, the difference between killing and slaying, and the war between landlords and squatters. The physicists quietly grumbled about their lack of a decently long lunch hour, despite their newly-acquired understanding of relativistic time-dilation. Meanwhile the linguists had been taught what linguistics is all about, and discovered that they all rather liked the sound of it...
On a grey autumn day, it is still very easy to be drawn in by the grand architecture, rolling lawns and cobbled streets guarding trendy shops and markets. Even before visiting, the reputation of both Cambridge and Oxford will put them at the top of many students’ list. Nonetheless, this trip was about starting the search for the right course – get this decision right and you are much more likely to reach your potential, and almost certain to enjoy the challenge of achieving it.
It was a long day, but hopefully these particular Salopians learned a little bit more about where their academic compass is pointing. Think on.