'You're going to Cambridge - now what?': Advice from Team Peterhouse

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Peterhouse Admissions
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Congratulations! You, your offspring, your friend, a student you teach is going to Cambridge in autumn 2020. This thread is aimed at answering some of the more practical questions you may have about this transition. The information here is based on Team Peterhouse’s experiences as students ourselves, what happens at Peterhouse and at another College one team member has also worked at. I’ve answered a few common queries below, so please read them before you post!

General info

A lot of things right now will vary from college to college. When you will find out about accommodation, what happens in freshers’ week and when you’ll receive information about it are all college dependent. There is one key theme, though. You won’t be able to ‘miss’ anything that’s absolutely vital. You’re one of a small number of new students at your college, so if you haven’t done something, or have missed an email, this won’t go unnoticed. You will be chased!

Why have you said 'autumn 2020' - doesn't term start in October?

Normally, yes. But this year, to facilitate as many in-person events as possible while maintaining social distancing, Freshers' Week may begin as early as 28th September. International Students who will need to self-isolate on arrival might be coming to Cambridge as early as 12th September.

What do I need to bring?

This is very individual. Obviously you will need clothes, toiletries (bought in Cambridge or from home – will depend how you’re travelling or if you need a specialised product), stationery, bed linen (2 sets of sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases minimum) and a laptop/desktop computer. Beyond that, it’s really up to you. Here are a few recommendations for other things you might need:

Kitchen: 1 x saucepan, 1 x frying pan, 1 x chopping board, 2 x sharp knives, 1 x peeler, 2 x wooden spoons, 2 x Tupperware, 2 x plates, 2 x bowls, 2 x knives, 2 x forks, 2 x spoons, 3 x mugs, 3 x glasses. This is a minimum if you want to do some cooking. I didn’t have much more than this and catered my entire third year.

Bedroom: a rug, if you think you’ll have hard floors, stuff to decorate with (photos, posters, fairy lights, etc.), extension lead (some rooms don’t have many plugs), adapters (only if you’re an international student!), biscuit tin, laundry basket, clothes drying rack, clothes hangers, basic toolkit (again, unexpectedly useful).

Bathroom: if you have your own bathroom, then a bathmat and a cup for your toothbrush are about all you’ll need. If you will be sharing a bathroom, a pair of plastic flip flops and a wash bag to carry everything you’ll need are a good idea.

Miscellaneous: bike (often bought more cheaply where you live than in Cambridge), rucksack and shopping bags, fancy dress for parties. Don’t go wild, but a few things you already have can be useful. Parties on the usual scale may not happen this term, but hopefully will later in the year.

You will also need warm clothes, especially if you’re not used to UK temperatures – Cambridge is very flat so gets very cold and windy in the autumn and winter!

What do I not need to bring?

Knowing what you don’t need is almost as useful as knowing what you do! Here are a few things you might not want to bring:

- Books! One or two you know you will read or will be super useful for your course would be fine. Do not bring all of your favourite books ‘just in case’ (I speak from experience here…)

- Books for your course. You can buy everything you need in Cambridge. Heffers is very well stocked for academic texts, you can buy secondhand books off students in the year above and most of all, make the most of the 100+ very well-stocked libraries. Waiting until you get there to see what you need is a good plan.

- Duvet and pillow. Ultimately, this is a very individual choice, but colleges will provide them.

- Iron/ironing board. Colleges have them and most students only use them in an emergency!

In terms of how to get things to Cambridge, fold-down plastic storage crates are very useful. Other storage boxes can come in handy too! Don’t worry if you’re an international student reading this: most of these things can be bought in Cambridge. The most important things are your clothes, laptop and things that remind you of home/you might not be able to get in the UK.

What are College parents?

Every College has a system of ‘parents’ where students who are in their second year are assigned new freshers to look after. Colleges operate this differently: some will have larger families of four or five new students, many will be much smaller, with only one or two. Most colleges will match up children with at least one parent from their subject; others will be more random but will also have a system of subject contacts. This system means new students are forced to interact with other people and fosters inter-year bonding.

What do I need to do before I arrive?

Some Colleges/subjects will send preparatory work or suggested reading lists before you arrive. Attempting some or all of these is useful, especially if you haven’t done any academic work for several months. Don’t panic if you haven’t completed it all – unless you are specifically told otherwise, this won’t be checked, so it’s up to you to do what you think is useful.

Keep checking your emails! Although you won’t be allowed to miss anything really important, it is nevertheless good practice to check your emails at least every couple of days (including spam/junk folder) to see if you have received anything new that you need to respond to. As a student, you’ll receive a lot of emails, so this will keep you in good habits.

If these haven't answered your questions, please ask away!
Last edited by Peterhouse Admissions; 2 weeks ago
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Paralove
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To add to the moving things in an out - big bags for life (think sports direct) are incredibly useful and squashable into cars, and fold down to shove into wardrobes/under beds/into cupboards.
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theJoyfulGeek
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What actually happens in Freshers' Week? How is this year different from next year?
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trinitymedic
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What’s going to happen with matriculation this year? We’ve been told it’s not happening on the full scale, but will I still need to buy a formal dress and gown?
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ReadingMum
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Thanks for doing this.

My first questions:

  1. are all the beds single (daughter has received no info on accomodation so far).
  2. are there laundries in the colleges - if so do they need to be fed with coins?
  3. how do they actually pay for meals - some sort of swipe/account system?

I have heard that some colleges in 'the other place' are not allowing parents up to the rooms on move in day - is it likely to be the same? Thinking of a daughter with a large musical instrument on top of the usual stuff
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alevelhelp2021
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Please Allah let me study here
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Saracen's Fez
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(Original post by Paralove)
To add to the moving things in an out - big bags for life (think sports direct) are incredibly useful and squashable into cars, and fold down to shove into wardrobes/under beds/into cupboards.
Or if you're making a trip to Ikea between now and then, stock up on their big bags, which are great for carrying laundry as well as moving in and out!
(Original post by ReadingMum)
Thanks for doing this.

My first questions:

are all the beds single (daughter has received no info on accomodation so far).
Not quite all but most are so probably best to work on that assumption unless you hear differently.
are there laundries in the colleges - if so do they need to be fed with coins?
Yes, all colleges have them and most are coin-operated. I tended to begin terms with a trip to the bank to get £10 worth of 20ps as ours were quite picky about the coins they would accept.
how do they actually pay for meals - some sort of swipe/account system?
Usually using your student card. Depending on your college this may be pre-loaded with money using a system called uPay, or you may get one big bill at the end of term. Some colleges now take card, so I know lots of people that started at Catz this year (which is when we brought card payments in) never bothered to top up their uPay and just paid with their normal card. It's worth saying also that you can only pay using your student card at your own college, so if you visit other colleges' dining halls as a guest (again it's not clear how much of that will be happening this year) then you would need to pay by cash or card.
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Adaal
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Do you have to take everything back home at the end of every term? Is there any way to store your belongings?
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eleven47
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(Original post by ReadingMum)
Thanks for doing this.

My first questions:

  1. are all the beds single (daughter has received no info on accomodation so far).
  2. are there laundries in the colleges - if so do they need to be fed with coins?
  3. how do they actually pay for meals - some sort of swipe/account system?

I have heard that some colleges in 'the other place' are not allowing parents up to the rooms on move in day - is it likely to be the same? Thinking of a daughter with a large musical instrument on top of the usual stuff
I was told that if my son brought his own bed linen then he would have to launder it himself. If he used the college set they would launder it for him. I will double check on this, but surprise surprise we struck bed linen off our list
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ProudPops
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(Original post by eleven47)
I was told that if my son brought his own bed linen then he would have to launder it himself. If he used the college set they would launder it for him. I will double check on this, but surprise surprise we struck bed linen off our list
I know Fitz do a linen service at £36 a term where you hand your sheets back every two weeks and get clean ones. Seems a lot to me so we are buying two sets and she can wash them
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Peterhouse Admissions
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(Original post by trinitymedic)
What’s going to happen with matriculation this year? We’ve been told it’s not happening on the full scale, but will I still need to buy a formal dress and gown?
Matriculation is a formal ceremony by which you become a member of your College and thus of the University. I don't quite know how this will happen this year, but it will certainly happen to some degree (no pun intended!), as will the dinner. One thing which is being discussed at Peterhouse is doing several smaller group matriculations but this might not be the plan at Trinity. For any sort of matriculation or formal dinner, you will definitely need a gown. Plus, if you want to go to any formal dinners at your college at any point, gowns will be required. Having a smart outfit (blouse and skirt, dress or suit) will do you no harm because you'll wear it for other events, such as formals, balls or job interviews, depending on the style you go for!
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Peterhouse Admissions
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(Original post by ReadingMum)
Thanks for doing this.

My first questions:

  1. are all the beds single (daughter has received no info on accomodation so far).
  2. are there laundries in the colleges - if so do they need to be fed with coins?
  3. how do they actually pay for meals - some sort of swipe/account system?

I have heard that some colleges in 'the other place' are not allowing parents up to the rooms on move in day - is it likely to be the same? Thinking of a daughter with a large musical instrument on top of the usual stuff
You're welcome!

To answer your questions:

1. Pretty much, yes. I believe Downing have some rooms with double beds, but I've not heard of any elsewhere.
2. Yes. Some do, some don't. When I was an undergrad, the College I was at had coin-operated laundries, so my parents collected lots of 20ps! However, the College I worked at pre-Peterhouse was done via an app.
3. Many Colleges use upay, where you can load money onto your College card which you then use in hall. Some will have bills at the end of term.

If I'm right in thinking your daughter is going to Clare, I've had a look everywhere and can't find any more college-specific answers to these questions, I'm afraid!

As for whether parents will be allowed in, it will really be College dependent. As far as I'm aware, parents are allowed in at Peterhouse, but only as strictly necessary. To only allow the student in would be a nightmare if they've got heavy stuff and need to open doors!
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Peterhouse Admissions
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(Original post by Adaal)
Do you have to take everything back home at the end of every term? Is there any way to store your belongings?
It depends where you're from. International students, and often those from Northern Ireland, have access to larger storage areas/rooms within College. In most Colleges, there will be some form of lockable storage in your room: usually half a wardrobe, a large cupboard or some sort of bunker. This means you can keep the stuff you don't need at home (laundry airer, bed linen etc.) in your room and just take home the stuff you need, like clothes. Your kitchen cupboard is also lockable, so you can keep utensils in there, but make sure you've disposed of anything that will go off!

Personally, I found I left about half my stuff over the holidays, especially bulky things.
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Peterhouse Admissions
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(Original post by ProudPops)
I know Fitz do a linen service at £36 a term where you hand your sheets back every two weeks and get clean ones. Seems a lot to me so we are buying two sets and she can wash them
That seems very sensible. By my reckoning, I spent less than £20/term on laundry (I was quite stingy with tumble drying - I was convinced I was going to shrink everything!). College washing machines tend to be bigger than your standard domestic ones, so I pretty much did one wash a week where I chucked everything in, then a few extra washes of dark clothes and denim etc.
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Peterhouse Admissions
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(Original post by theJoyfulGeek)
What actually happens in Freshers' Week? How is this year different from next year?
Whew! This is a big question!

How things will differ, in short, is that there will be fewer big group events. Freshers week involves lots of talks attended by all new students (health and safety, who's who, that type of thing) and lots of activities which help you get to know each other. This year, they're going to need to take place in a socially distanced way. So some talks may be pre-recorded, some may be held in smaller groups and some events may be arranged differently. Exact events and talks vary between colleges, so there's no set list of things that will definitely happen other than matriculation (the ceremony where you join the college), but even this varies.

As for what will happen next year, it will very much depend on the public health situation then. If everything is back to 'normal', then there will be more close contact between people and more people in indoor spaces. If not, then who knows?
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theJoyfulGeek
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(Original post by Peterhouse Admissions)
Whew! This is a big question!

How things will differ, in short, is that there will be fewer big group events. Freshers week involves lots of talks attended by all new students (health and safety, who's who, that type of thing) and lots of activities which help you get to know each other. This year, they're going to need to take place in a socially distanced way. So some talks may be pre-recorded, some may be held in smaller groups and some events may be arranged differently. Exact events and talks vary between colleges, so there's no set list of things that will definitely happen other than matriculation (the ceremony where you join the college), but even this varies.

As for what will happen next year, it will very much depend on the public health situation then. If everything is back to 'normal', then there will be more close contact between people and more people in indoor spaces. If not, then who knows?
Thank you so much!
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trinitymedic
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(Original post by Peterhouse Admissions)
Matriculation is a formal ceremony by which you become a member of your College and thus of the University. I don't quite know how this will happen this year, but it will certainly happen to some degree (no pun intended!), as will the dinner. One thing which is being discussed at Peterhouse is doing several smaller group matriculations but this might not be the plan at Trinity. For any sort of matriculation or formal dinner, you will definitely need a gown. Plus, if you want to go to any formal dinners at your college at any point, gowns will be required. Having a smart outfit (blouse and skirt, dress or suit) will do you no harm because you'll wear it for other events, such as formals, balls or job interviews, depending on the style you go for!
Okay, I’ve got it: thank you so much
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ProudPops
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(Original post by Peterhouse Admissions)
That seems very sensible. By my reckoning, I spent less than £20/term on laundry (I was quite stingy with tumble drying - I was convinced I was going to shrink everything!). College washing machines tend to be bigger than your standard domestic ones, so I pretty much did one wash a week where I chucked everything in, then a few extra washes of dark clothes and denim etc.
Thank you.

Can I ask another? Doctors surgeries? With the Cambridge terms being 8/9 weeks, I am guessing the kids still need to register at a local surgery? Is there a general one they all use or one for each college?
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Adaal
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(Original post by Peterhouse Admissions)
It depends where you're from. International students, and often those from Northern Ireland, have access to larger storage areas/rooms within College. In most Colleges, there will be some form of lockable storage in your room: usually half a wardrobe, a large cupboard or some sort of bunker. This means you can keep the stuff you don't need at home (laundry airer, bed linen etc.) in your room and just take home the stuff you need, like clothes. Your kitchen cupboard is also lockable, so you can keep utensils in there, but make sure you've disposed of anything that will go off!

Personally, I found I left about half my stuff over the holidays, especially bulky things.
Thanks
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ReadingMum
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(Original post by ProudPops)
Thank you.

Can I ask another? Doctors surgeries? With the Cambridge terms being 8/9 weeks, I am guessing the kids still need to register at a local surgery? Is there a general one they all use or one for each college?
The only comms that daughter has had so far from Clare is from the nurse. They are requesting a zoom meeting with each student to 'induct' them, have sent a questionnaire and have supplied the info on how to register with the appropriate GP.
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