University of cambridge - a week in the life of a social and political sciences student

Here are the week in the life guides written by Cambridge University Students studying Arts or Humanity subjects. If you're a Cambridge student studying an Art or Humanity subject that isn't here (or even if it is), feel free to add your experiences to the page, by clicking edit and following the existing structure.

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Social and Political Sciences (SPS)


Username: Craghyrax

Year of Study: 1st year


Typical Week:

For the purpose of this 'typical week' we shall assume that I have one supervision on the Thursday, and one supervision on the Monday after this week.

Monday: Wake up at 10. Go to Psychology lecture at 12. Drop by library and collect 4 books for essay deadline on Thursday. Go to room. Make lunch and mooch on TSR for 2hrs. Read from 3 to 6. Go to Hall with housemates. Take my reading to college husband's room, with laptop. Read, with intermittent conversation and some TSR go home at 5.

Tuesday: Wake up at 10. Psychology lecture at 12. Go to Sainsburys. Get home and panic realising that essay deadline is noon on Wednesday. Read all afternoon. Briefly eat at Hall at 6. Take my laptop and books to college library. Read till close at midnight. Go home, carry on reading till 2. Start writing essay. (coffee and 2 red bulls involved) Collapse at 4am, setting alarm for 6.

Wednesday: Wake up at 6, carry on writing essay after more coffee. Finish essay at 11:30. Fling on clothes, print essay, put on sunglasses and iPod and leg-it to Christ's to drop essay in DoS's pigeon hole by noon. Take roundabout route and drop off Psychology books at SPS library, and pick up 4 or 5 Soc Anth books. Get home. Collapse and sleep till 6, having missed an 11 Politics lecture and a 2-4 Sociology lecture. Go out somewhere for dinner with a friend. Go home and read till 4 (checking facebook and TSR at intervals).

Thursday: Wake up at 9.30. Soc Anth lecture at 10. Psychology supervision with my DoS at 12. Make lunch and TSR a bit. Read all afternoon. Take laundry to Fen Court. Read some more. Retrieve washing. Go out for dinner with a friend. Come back and take books to friend's room and read all evening. Go home round 6.

Friday: Wake up at 9.30. Politics lecture at 10. Go home and read. Catch train to London and climb with a friend. Get back to Cambridge at 7:30. File into Yippie's Noodle Bar. Get home at 9. Read till 4.

Saturday: Wake up at about 12. Panic about essay deadline on Sunday. Gradually get up and drag things to library at 2:30. Read till 6. Go to hall. Go back to library and read till 12. Go to friend's room and carry on reading. Go home at 3. Start essay and keep going....

Sunday:....keep writing. Finish essay round 11. Email it to Soc Anth supervisor. Collapse and sleep till 6. Eat out with a friend. Go to Clowns afterwards. Watch a DVD. Chat till 5. Go to sleep in preparation of early start for 10am Soc Anth Supervision.

Other Comments:

Usually within a term I will go to about two formals, and all the superhalls (two or three). There are also occasionally subject-specific dinners, and college society drinks evenings. The Dean occasionally emails the freshers and invites them to mingle and partake of free sherry in his parlour. The Chapel occasionally has good choral services with nice food. At the end of every Lent the Chapel has a retreat (free for all Petreans) which this year entailed a weekend of good food and a visit to very pretty places in East Sussex. The Peterhouse Politics and History Societies have about two or three meetings a term with famous politicians or academics speaking. These usually involve dressing up and chatting over champagne before settling into comfy old armchairs for the talk, followed by discussion. A string quintet performed in our theatre this term. My college 'family' has remained roughly intact, and I occasionally meet for coffee with my 'mother' or go out for a 'family meal'. My house has 8 freshers, a second and a third year. Those of us living in the bottom half will often take our reading and sit in the corridor drinking tea round mid-term when the work pressure gets oppressive. Also at 6pm they will knock on my door and ask if I'm going to hall so that we can walk over together. Mid-term when work gets too much, I might see some plays or a concert with a friend. Sometimes I get on well with supervision partners from other colleges, and we go out together to brainstorm/swap essays/revise together. I occasionally meet up with Tablander TSRers, either at a meet, or in smaller groups. Clearly TSR squeezes into the cracks as a procrastination tool, as do facebook and MSN at times.

Practically, Peterhouse is an old, central college. Apparently Darwin lived in my house, which is on a very old, lovely street across the road from college. Peterhouse itself is very pretty, our Hall being the oldest or second oldest college building in Cambridge. Even ordinary meals are eaten in the hall by candlelight. The SPS department and library are on Free School Lane, which is 5 mins away from both Peterhouse and my house. Free School Lane and the department are both very old and pretty. Our lecture theatre - originally built for Physics - is creaky, wooden, and handsome with alot of character. Essentially, I live roughly 5 mins walk away from everywhere I go. Two of my supervisors are 20mins walk away, up near Castle Hill..but the other two see us in our department. So barring Politics and Anthropology supervisions, the furthest I ever strictly need to walk is 8mins to Sainsburys. Bedders empty our bins every day, and vacuum our rooms twice a term. They clean public areas every day. Nonetheless I avoid using our gyp, which is messy. I buy all my lunch and breakfast things from Sainsburys, and eat at Hall for dinner, or go out.

It may be worth adding that SPS lectures mostly involve brief Q&A time after the lecture ends. In this way I was able to attain year-wide fame to go with my internet fame, by unthinkingly blurting out that another student's answer to the lecturer's question to her was utterly ridiculous, in those exact words. The first part of this breaks down what the workload looks like. However, I sometimes have three instead of two essays in a week. In Michaelmas I had four essays in 8 days in three cycles. I only figured it all out in the third cycle, which ironically coincided with my being very sick. The example week above is more reflective of Lent, as we talked to our DoS and coordinated timetables more efficiently.


Username: Brimstone

Year of Study: 1st year

College: Selwyn

Typical Week:

This is an average week in Michelmas term. For the purposes of this, we'll say I have a Soc Anth supervision and a Politics supervision this week, which is how it is every alternate week.

Monday: Wake up hungover at about 11am from clubbing at Life the night before. Having got showered and dressed by 11.30, either attempt an hour of essay or an hours worth of reading before meeting people to go to Hall at 12.30. Eat lunch and chat with people in Hall for an hour, before grabbing my bike and cycling to my 2pm Psychology lecture. Before lecture, pop into the SPS library to find some books to either read around lectures or write essay with. Have lecture. Get back to Selwyn for about 3.15. Procrastinate and chat to people for about 45 minutes. Eventually start some work at 4.00 - most likely reading for an essay or actually writing the essay. Work till around 5.45, then go and meet people for Hall at 6. Eat dinner and sit around chatting for an hour. Go back to room and work for about an hour and a half. At 8.30-9ish, go over to the Bar/JCR and hang out with people till about midnight. Come back to my room, sit around for an hour (either TSR/chatting to shower buddy). Go to bed.

Tuesday: Drag myself out of bed at 8am for a 9am Politics lecture. Leave my room at about 8.50, meet Selwyn people in the lecture at 9 on the dot. Barely stay awake during the lecture. 10am Soc Anth lecture straight afterwards. Either go to lecture and fall asleep or skip lecture and fall asleep in the Mill Lane library. If I go to the lecture, finishes at 11. Either go to the SPS library to sort out books and then get food, or go straight to get food then wander around shops for a bit. Back to the lecture theatres at 12 for a Psychology lecture. Finish at 1, rush back to Selwyn for Hall. Hang around in Hall till about 2. Go back to my room and work - either reading or essaying - until 5.45, with random breaks to chat to my shower buddy or to phone friends. Usually this is quite a productive slot for essay writing, as I can lock myself in my room for a good three hours and just write write write. If I don't have an essay, I'll probably go to the Selwyn library to get some books (but not work). If I'm not formalling, I'll go to Hall at 6, go back to my room at 6.45ish and work for two hours until Formal people come out. If I'm formalling, I'll work till about 6.15, then get ready and go down to formal with people at 7. Either way, I get very drunk. Go to Cindies at about 10ish. Dance the night away till it closes at 2am. Take a very slow walk back to Selwyn via Van of Life and Orgasm Bridge. Somehow end up at Selwyn an hour after we leave Cindies. Chat to people for about an hour. Go to bed at four.

Wednesday: Drag myself out of bed at 11.30m thoroughly hungover. Realise I have a midday Politics lecture. Jump out of bed, quickly get ready and rush to Mill Lane for the lecture. Sit through lecture feeling very sick and hungry and not taking in much information. After lecture, go into town quickly to get food with other SPSers, as I haven't eaten since Formal the night before. Amble slowly back to Sociology lecture, 2-4. It's a double lecture with a 10 minute break in the middle. Hands aching after so much writing, cycle back to Selwyn after lecture finishes. Work from about 4.30-5.45. Go to Hall, 6-7. Come back to my room; as Wednesday is a slow evening at Selwyn, work from about 7-10. Go to Bar/JCR/someone's room afterwards. People usually watch a film or just hang out and chat. Go back to room at about 12-ish, get to bed at 1.

Thursday: LECTURE FREE DAY! Drag myself out of bed at about 11. Work from 11.30-12.30. Go to Hall at 12.30-1.15. Work from 1.30-3.30, generally essaying but sometimes reading. Soc Anth supervision at 3.40. Return to Selwyn for 5ish. Chat to people for an hour before Hall OR work for an hour and a half, then go to Formal. If I go to Hall, come back to my room to work for an hour or so. Leave to go to Vodka Revs (or Soul Tree sometimes) at 10. Spend about 3hrs in Vodka Revs before I get bored and go home. Go to bed about 2ish.

Friday: Wake up about 10-11ish, very hungover from the night before. Generally I don't go to my 10am Soc Anth lecture on a Friday, as it's too early for me to get up for after a night out. Politics supervision at 11.30. Relatively near Selwyn, but I still cycle as it's much quicker. Finish supervision at 12.30, power cycle back to Selwyn for lunch. Hall for an hour or so. Back to room and work from 2-5.45ish. Normally we have Hall at 6, but let's say this week I have a Drinking Society Swap. Work till 6. Get ready for swap. Meet in bar at 7. Walk to restaurant to meet girls for 7.30 (but we end up meeting them late). Get very drunk and stumble back to Selwyn for about 10.30-11. Hang out in bar for an hour or so, before going back to my room. Sober up before going to bed at about 1-2ish.

Saturday: YAY Saturday. Wake up at about 10ish, generally not hungover (but this week, I am!). Get dressed, send texts organising a Nando's visit for lunch. (It's a Selwyn thing; there's a group of about 10 of us that go to either Nando's/Wagamama for lunch every Saturday. I seem to be organiser-in-chief for this!). Work from about 11-12.30. Meet people outside the Diamond (building in Selwyn) at 1. Slow walk to Nando's, get there at 1.30. Eat and hang out in Nando's till 3. At this point, either return to Selwyn and work/hang out in town till 5. Hall at 6. Back to my room at 7. Work till about 10. Saturday night is a rubbish night in Selwyn and Cambridge in general, so generally hang out in the bar or JCR, or get an early night. Or work till late, but that's rare.

Sunday: Wake up at 11. Get dressed and go to Brunch at 11.30. Generally stay there till 12.15-30. Go back to my room. Either work in my room or the library from 1-6, with breaks and stuff. Go to Hall at 6. Come back to my room at 7. Work for an two hours or so. Get ready to go out and go to bar at 9.30ish. Hang out in the Bar for a while, then walk to Fez/Life for a night in a club. Club till about 2am. End up back at Selwyn at 3. Usually into bed by 3-4.

Other Comments:

And that's my weekly life, really. There's obviously lots of other stuff that doesn't happen on a weekly/bi-weekly basis too, that I haven't been able to include in this! I regularly go to see different people talk - since I've been at Cambridge, I've seen Jodie Williams (worked on Obama's campaign team), Brian Paddick (gay ex-police officer & London Mayoral candidate) and Sir Peter Ricketts (Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office), all organised by different groups. I'll go society events on a regular basis - sometimes J-Soc, sometimes LBGT. Next term, I hope to take up a sport too! As well as these, I have regular drinking society swaps. We either invite other colleges to our formal, go to their formals or eat in a restaurant with them. They involve a lot of drunkenness and fun - it's a good way to meet people from other colleges! On occasion, we have tutor parties - twice this term - where my tutor invites all his students to come and get drunk on his very strong punch. I also have friends in other colleges, and sometimes meet up with them for Formals or meals.

I suppose I'd better write a little bit about Selwyn. It's 125 years old, and is a very pretty college (just Google Selwyn College, Cambridge and you'll see!). It's about a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town, or a five minute cycle. This is very beneficial in that we don't get tourists and we're a peaceful college, and disadvantageous in that when you go clubbing, you don't want to have to trek home in the freezing cold/pouring rain. The only time the distance bothers me is on a night out; otherwise I cycle everywhere, which is good for my fitness, so it doesn't affect me. A bonus about Selwyn is that we're right next to the Sidgwick site (literally, we have a gate through our gardens to the site). If you do law/history/English/languages/music/economics/classics, you'll have less than a three minute walk to most of your lectures and supervisions. All my lectures are at either Free School Lane or Mill Lane, both of which are no more than a five minute cycle from Selwyn, with Mill Lane being only a ten minute walk. The SPS library is in Free School Lane, which is a bit of a trek to go to just for a few books, but I can usually coincide my book hunting with lectures or going into town generally. But yeah, Selwyn is a lovely college. There is a very friendly atmosphere (we're known as the friendly college!), and it's small enough so that everyone can know everyone else. It's an brilliant atmosphere to live and work in. We have a very good library - nice to work in, and lots of books you need are easily avaliable, and for long periods of time (2 weeks I think)! College food is very nice and Hall is a good atmosphere. The porters and staff are all very lovely too.

Just to explain about Formal. Formal Hall is the traditional meal held at Selwyn at which students dress in suits (or dresses) and gowns to dine together. Selwyn formal is held every Tues and Thurs, which is good as it always means that Formal is always full and you don't have it too often so it's no longer special, like colleges that have it every day of the week. it's held in our Hall by candlelight and we receive a three course waiter service. We're allowed to take a whole bottle of wine in per person (unlike a lot of other colleges!). A grace is read, we all stand when the fellows enter and leave, and there are lots of rules - but this just makes the atmosphere! Selwyn was voted 4th best formal a few years ago, and I've heard rave reviews from someone who has been to loads of formals before - she said Selwyn was one of the best! People tend to get quite drunk and a lot of pennying is involved! Formal is inevitably followed by more drinking in the bar and then a club afterwards. It's good to socialise and have a bit of fun.


Erm, how much work do I have? Well, throughout Michelmas term, I had a total of twelve essays to read and write for. Generally, they were quite well spaced out, though I did have a period (Week 4,5,6) when I had a Psychology supervision every Monday. She set us the question on the Monday and we had to read and write for it by Friday! That was a bit intense. But yeah, I generally have two weeks between supervisions in which to work for the essays. I don't have an immense amount of work - it's never stopped me going or going to formal. I've only had to work after midnight once, and that was because I left an essay I'd been set for a month until the last two days, and had done no reading for it! But yeah, I've got a calm attitude to work, and if I work steadily, my work never interferes in my social life. I know of people who sit and work 24/7, or sit up till 3am working, but most people I know don't end up doing that, especially the SPSers. If you end up working till that late, you've seriously mistimetabled, I'd say. But back to essays, I spend about 5-8hours reading for each one, then 4-5hours writing it, which does me fine.

With regards to lectures, as you can probably see from the above, I've only got eight hours a week. I generally go to 6/7 out of 8, and never to my Friday one. I've only got one 9am, which is a lifesaver too! I do some reading around each lecture, but not as much as I'd like to! Most of my reading time goes towards essays. Supervisions are generally 1 supervisor, 2 students, except Sociology, where I've had a one on one for the essay discussion then a group discussion of six people, which is nice.