History undergraduate Lauren Westwood reflects on keeping things in perspective.
How do you feel about the celebration of 40 years of women at Fitz?
I think it's fantastic that Fitz is celebrating the acceptance of women into higher education, and recognises how significant this acceptance is. However, it does have a hint of shock for me every time I hear that it has only been 40 years, well within living memory for many. I hope that celebrating this occasion will remind us to work hard at accessibility for all disadvantaged groups in the future.
Do you have any advice for prospective undergraduate or postgraduate students?
Don't prioritise work over a happy, healthy life. Cambridge isn't worth working yourself into the ground for. I got some advice from a second year when I was an interviewee - you can be a great historian at a lot of universities. Not getting into Cambridge probably just means you don't suit the supervision format well, which is fine. Please, please don't let not getting in effect your self-image, or how 'smart' you think you are - go on and achieve great things somewhere else.
Has anything surprised you about Cambridge? Have you faced any challenges?
I was surprised by how much being here slants your perspective of reality, especially surrounding things like intelligence and job prospects. Being surrounded by people who are going for the biggest firms, the most competitive jobs, the most prestigious internships - it can really make you feel like you're falling behind, when in reality, you're doing great! I'd strongly recommend keeping in contact with friends, family and partners at home. Having my boyfriend to talk to really helped to put things in perspective for me. He regularly reminded me that I wouldn't be terminally unemployed if I couldn't land a second year internship with a fancy firm.
What else do you do apart from your subject in Cambridge?
Lots of things! I'm co-president of Fitzwilliam College Debating Society, which is a good excuse to get out and chat with your friends over wine on a Friday evening. I enjoy a lot of student theatre, which is cheap and either excellent or so bad it's good. Choir is actually really good too, I like to pop into the Chapel occasionally to hear them sing - it's free and next door. I spend a lot of time just talking to people honestly, the best thing about Cambridge is having lots of interesting conversations, usually in Fitz cafe. I like to game as well, and am at least the second best Mario Kart player on my corridor...I can already feel the controversy when my flatmates read that one.
Why did you choose Cambridge? What made you choose Fitzwilliam?
Cambridge had the best history degree I could find, since they wouldn't make me do medieval history (which I find pretty boring) and let me do basically whatever I want. Also, I just felt more comfortable in Cambridge when I visited than I had elsewhere. I come from quite a small town. Cambridge felt like it had more to do without being too big (and tricky to navigate without a bike). I chose Fitz for lots of reasons. Forcing myself to do at least an hour of exercise a day walking to and from lectures, having access to ovens, getting to eat in the most beautiful dining hall in Cambridge - but I think the main thing was that Fitz just felt like a home rather than a museum. The gardens are less obsessively trimmed and flat, the buildings more random and warmly lit inside. It's always a relief when I get back from the town centre and can properly relax in Fitz.