Natalie Price (History 2012) on her studies, her love of music and her time in Scandinavia.
What was your first experience of Fitzwilliam?
Like a lot of people, I had a very particular idea of what Cambridge was, and never thought I would apply to one of the newer colleges. But I ended up doing a music essay competition at Fitz when I was in Year 12 at school. I got a certificate for it and I was invited to an open day to receive it. I couldn’t go, because I was ill, but the admissions office offered to have me come on another day – just me. They arranged for me to meet the director of studies in music and also (Life Fellow) Rosemary Horrox, because they knew I was interested in history, and also to meet a current student. I went in July and it was a beautiful, sunny day. I came in through the Huntingdon Road side and my first impression was how beautiful the gardens were. The whole day was a really lovely experience – I felt so welcomed. I felt everyone had gone out of their way to help me get to know the college. I ended up deciding to apply on the basis of that experience. It felt so personal in a way I never would’ve expected. I think in many ways that’s an accurate reflection of my subsequent time at Fitz.
Why did you choose history?
History was consistently the one subject I studied at school where, even if I started a new course that I expected to find really dull or dry or otherwise not ‘my thing’, I would inevitably end up finding joy in it the more I learnt about it. There wasn’t another subject I had that quite that same connection to.
I also loved that studying history allowed me to explore other interests I had. When I was at Cambridge, whenever I had a chance to do longer pieces of written, research-based work, I was given the freedom to do some more interdisciplinary work. My dissertations for both my undergrad and my MPhil focused on music, so I spent a lot of time immersed in musicology as well as history, and my supervisors were always very encouraging and open to me pursuing that.
How involved did you get in College life?
I was the junior president of the Music Society in my third year, which I really enjoyed. I was also really glad to be able to do that because College musical life has always been quite singing heavy and I’m not a singer at all! So it was nice to be involved, and to approach things like organising the FCMS garden party from a slightly different perspective. I played clarinet duets with a friend and was in a saxophone quartet for a year. I was also on the ball committee in my third year.
How did you find Fitzwilliam socially?
A lot of people I spoke to at other colleges were really surprised when I told them how generally close knit our year was. And possibly that has something to do with the fact in first year we’re all together, accommodation-wise, and again in third year. It felt like, as a group of people, everyone in general just got on really, really well. I had my MA graduation recently and I was nervous about coming back. When I graduated I was really sad to leave, and there were so many people I wanted to keep in touch with. Of course the reality is you do lose touch with people. So I was apprehensive about coming back, wondering if it was going to feel awkward. But the moment I went into College with a couple of my friends, it was so natural. Everyone felt totally at ease once we were back together. It just reminded me how lovely it was to have spent three years with all these people.
How did you go from Fitzwilliam to working for a bank in Copenhagen?
I wasn’t quite done with studying at the end of my third year, and I really wanted take the research I had done in my dissertation further, so I applied for the MPhil. I was entertaining the prospect of doing a PhD, but midway through my MPhil I realised I was pretty exhausted and wanted to take a break, so I ended up not applying for a PhD. I moved to London with very little idea of what I wanted to do. In the end, I did get a job at a start-up as an office assistant, and I worked at the place for three-and-a-half weeks before it transpired my new employers were fraudsters. I never got paid.
Then my friend got me a job in customer service in the place she worked. At the same time I had just signed up for a pre-paid card with a banking app called Monzo, then I realised they were hiring and I ended up applying for a customer-focused financial crime role, largely on the basis I had experienced fraud myself. I had the graphic design ticking along in the background for a few years - I started doing it in earnest during my MPhil. Then when I started working for Monzo I got talking to their head of design. I ended up doing a trial period with them and made a lateral move into design. Scandi dramas were definitely the reason I first went to Copenhagen, aged 18. I’d been watching things like The Killing and The Bridge and I don’t know why I wanted to visit Denmark on the basis of seeing those series; they’re really bleak and Copenhagen is in reality such a beautiful city! I was lucky because my current job is pretty flexible and the company has a strong emphasis on a culture of remote working. It’s been great, really, really interesting. It’s been very hard trying to get to grips with Danish. I can’t really speak any, but I’m able to read some.