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!
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!