Photo of 2019 College members

Ronja celebrates diversity of Fitz

Philosophy postgraduate student Ronja Griep is proud of how far Fitzwilliam College has come in the past 40 years. 

It is unbelievable to think that only 40 years ago, the world was so different compared to today. I am part of a cohort that is increasingly diverse and includes so many incredible women that it is hard to comprehend that women’s talents have only started to be accepted and celebrated four decades ago. Nevertheless, I think Fitzwilliam College especially has come a long way and we should be proud of that - it opens up a wonderful space to celebrate and highlight the amazing work done by female Fitz alumni and current students, while raising awareness of the challenges for equality still ahead.

I was positively and sincerely surprised by the diversity of students and staff at Cambridge. I truly imagined it to be a place of privilege and wealth, and in many ways it still is, but I also met such a wide variety of incredible people from all sorts of backgrounds and corners of the world. Nevertheless, academically, Cambridge is a challenge for me, and it teaches me to see criticism as a positive encouragement to do better rather than as an expression of doubt whether I am good enough. The faculty and College community really helped me develop as a person as well, which I am thankful for.

I try to engage in various readings groups outside my ‘philosophical comfort-zone’, and I love meeting people from other departments who work on similar authors or topics but who are from a very different subject-background - it reminds me that research and thinking is interconnected, that there is no line where philosophy ends and history or classics or languages begin. I also try to get engaged in voluntary work in Cambridge through Cambridge Student Community Action. I didn’t do any voluntary work during my undergraduate studies because I worked quite a lot of hours part-time, but I really would like to take it back up again and help the communities and families in the area in meaningful ways.

The course and the small size of the cohort in the MPhil in Philosophy at Cambridge appealed to me, while Fitz was more of a gut-feeling choice. It seemed genuine in its pursuit of diversity, inclusion and focus on community. I also liked that there was a special emphasis on postgraduate students, including partners and children, and the new dedicated MCR space offered for postgraduates. When I visited Fitz the first time in March and then for a scholarship interview to in May, I was glad to see that all this seemed to be true - it was such a welcoming place, and I had wonderful tours by current postgraduates. I realised that I had made the right choice and I have enjoyed my months at Fitz so far very much.

For me personally, I was hesitant to apply to Cambridge or Oxford because of the fear of rejection and the idea that I simply wasn’t good enough. It took three years of undergraduate studies elsewhere and a supportive environment for me to build up the courage and confidence to apply. Looking back, I would say that this anxiety over failure held me back incredibly. I realise now, consciously, that not getting a place is no sign of a lack of talent in any shape or form - as I perceived it back then.

So I would say: have the courage to try, give it your best shot and do not define your self-worth by the outcome of your application.

Ronja Griep