I’m officially halfway through my degree

Tonight is the night. Halfway hall. That eccentric celebration of getting to the halfway point of your degree – well, only if you’re on a three year course mind you. Whilst I’m slightly irked about the fact that I have to pay for the privilege of going to the dinner, I do get enough free food at this place through working at events or just generally living at the Union that I probably shouldn’t complain too loudly. So, in honour of getting to this point in my degree without failing – yet, touch wood, you never know, tomorrow could be the day when it all ends – I thought I would share some of my ‘golden moments’ from the past week.

Yesterday I spent the evening hanging out with Bill Oddie. I feel like this is a fully justified comment seen as I spent, quite literally, 8 hours with the man. That’s pretty committed guest liaising right there. Thankfully I got my panini and £5 bar tab as a thank you – lol jks love you all at the Union really 😉 He was a genuinely lovely man, very sweet and had time for absolutely everyone. The day also resulted in quite possibly my most liked status on Facebook ever…showing that getting into Cambridge is toped by having an old bird watcher ring you up unexpectedly.

On Monday I celebrated my twentieth – woo! Cue, happy excited cheering. Apart from having to get up for a meeting at 8.15am it was a pretty chilled day. Despite the fact that we’ve all been ill recently, my lovely adorable friends clubbed together and Alisa bought me a Chinese which we ate alongside left-over cake with a carrot stuck in the top as a makeshift candle. Now, I doubt that will happen again so that’s certainly one for the memory bank. The wonderful Jamie came over for evening chats which was lovely and reminded me of the fact that good friends are those that you can just talk to, about absolutely nothing in particular, for a ridiculously long period of time, but it doesn’t matter because it just works.

The weekend saw my mum come and visit for early celebrations and a cake party which consisted of yes, you guessed it, way way too much cake for anyone’s waistline to handle. And finally, to round off the last few days of excitement, Saturday saw the Union hosting the Bicentenary Debate which was quite frankly staggering. I spent the evening following the footsteps of Baroness Mallalieu who was charming and a real inspiration. She was the first female president of the Union and I can’t quite fathom what it must have been like dealing with rowdy, pompous white posh guys in the 60s ,when they felt they ruled the world. I was going to say ‘still felt like they ruled the world’ but I release this is, realistically, a premature slip-of-the-tongue. The room was filled with so many ex-presidents and officers who have come to dominate many of their respective fields of work, and I feel pretty sure in saying that I doubt there will ever be a generation who goes on to do the same. As the Baroness said, back then you really felt like you could do anything that you wanted to do. Sadly, I don’t feel the same sense of liberation and freedom as was once enjoyed by my predecessors. But that’s life. Or the Tory government. Take your pick.

Right, that’s enough reminiscing. You’re probably bored to death by now, and besides, I have a dinner to get to. Such a Cambridge student problem. Ciao.

And I’m back

For those who will remember I wrote at the end of last term about how disconnected I felt to my degree and pretty much everything that I was involved with. Today, I can happily report that I am out of the woods. Finally I feel back to ‘normal’, what ever this ‘normal’ really is anyway.

Whilst the Christmas break gave me some welcome breathing space, coming back to Cambridge and all that it has to throw at you hasn’t been trouble free. I spent the last week feeling rather uneasy, was eating for the sake of having something to do rather than because of desire, and fighting what was a rather bizarre urge to leave. But, after talking to the rents on that so often forgotten phone, and organising a quick trip home this coming weekend I feel much more content. My work is becoming far more engaging now that I have switched to modules on US foreign policy and the Middle East – I study Politics for those who haven’t quite worked out yet what my newfangled degree HSPS actually stands for – and working at the Union is most definitely the best decision I have made so far. I’ve even applied for an internship or two which has been a huge struggle, considering the way in which my career ambitions flit between being extremely vague to oh-so-set-on-that-which-has-no-internship, journalism.

I know this isn’t a particularly long or inspiring post, or really anything at all. It’s just me checking back in, letting you all know that I am fully intending to kick-start writing this blog again – yes that does indeed mean that you will be seeing more of me on your dashboards, apologies in advance.

The BBC News presenter just said ‘hundreds of glitters’ rather than ‘hundreds of gritters’. It made me particularly happy, perhaps more than it should. So i’ll take that as a hint to get back to my reading on the French Revolution and say ‘adios’. Until next time folks, heads up, we can do this.

Name something you’re proud of?

Now this post is long overdue, and for that I am sorry. Like most things in my life it seems, I am very good at coming up with ideas of things to do but never quite as good when it comes to putting them into action. Thankfully, there are people in the world who are good at this, and who want to make sure those of us who aren’t learn how, so I am currently on the Sprint programme which is a personal development course for women.

Today, or I suppose I should say yesterday as it’s after midnight, we considered things that we were proud of and conversely things which we saw as our challenges. Unsurprisingly I could think of a million and one challenges that I face juggling degree work with trying to get involved with all that Cambridge has to offer, and somehow attempting to negotiate the careers market all at the same time. It was much harder to consider things that I was proud of; well, all except one thing, and it’s something that I have been planning on writing about for a while and this has given me the final push to do so.

I know he’ll probably hate me for this, because, well, he’s supposed to. It’s his job to, in a way.

Today I was happy to admit that I am proud of my brother, Zach. I’ve put that in bold just to be super annoying, if this wasn’t enough already.

Why? Because he serves as a constant reminder of how committed someone can be to their goals and how someone can truly fall in love with an industry and pursue it regardless of the barriers and the costs.

He’s a cracking musician and performs at places that would normally kick you out at his age (he’s still only 17, yet everyone assumes he must be 20-odd with the way he caries himself and performs). And at the same time he works damn hard completing A-Levels, getting stellar grades despite the fact that he has always ‘hated school’, and now brushes off full-marks as if they’re no big deal.

Yet they are…I never performed the way he does academically yet I am now studying at (if we’re all honest here) the best University in the World. I am in awe of him. I wish I could be more like him. I wish I could have the drive that he has; the passion he has for music; the unexpected yet natural ability within academia.

Today’s post is in part a homage then to my brother and my pride in him. But it’s also, more widely, about how we can have pride in things without even realising it; we can have pride in things which we far too often overlook. It’s not that before today I was ashamed to say I was proud of my brother, but before today I don’t know whether I would have been able to identify that this is truly how I felt.

So cheers to Sprint for helping me to establish that one of my biggest motivators, and something which I am truly thankful for, is my brother. And thanks to you for getting to the end of what is an uncharacteristically soppy post. Whilst you’re at it, make sure you listen to some of his music, I couldn’t end without linking you all to it. Click here for some serenading.

Getting the balance right

So I have failed completely to get the work life balance right this term at Cambridge. It’s the first time that I’ve ever really sat back and realised that I haven’t been focused on what is the most important thing – when you cut away all the other bits and bobs that Cambridge has to offer – i.e. the Degree.

Over Michaelmas term I have become a true pro at taking on and trying out new experiences, all in the name of procrastination. Before ‘coming up’ in September to start trialling with the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, I had made the firm decision that I would only trial on top of my degree work for Michaelmas, as training takes up so much time that you need to spend the rest focusing on your lectures and supervision work.

I failed on this within the first week of October when I signed up to the Cambridge Union Society’s Vacation Committee which invites speakers for the following term (Lent 2015). I ended up having such a jolly time with them all that I decided I could handle sending invites for Debates and Speakers in term-time whilst trialling no problem. Clearly I had forgotten that I was no superwoman, I did not have an unnaturally good ability to juggle tasks, and that yes, I was indeed kidding myself if I was to even think momentarily about not watching a gazilion episodes of masterchef every week as standard.

Before I knew it, however, I was promoted. Becoming Deputy Speakers Officer put an extra nail in my degree’s coffin as it meant I now needed to commit more time every week and actually do the important stuff, liaising with agents. And then I became even more distracted…The Union’s Bicentenary Ball Committee – the Union turns 200 next year and is having a big birthday party, essentially – needed a Music Officer, and considering my love of music journalism, the idea of choosing acts for the bash sounded amazing. So I applied…and was accepted…whoops.

Sensible plan out of the window within Week 1.

Since then I’ve failed to recover. Switching to Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club from the Women’s should have put my rowing commitment hours down, but I think if anything it increased them. I stopped enjoying the attachments I had to sport and even the Union, because they were no longer things I was just doing for fun, they each had commitments which needed my full attention, which I simply could not give because I was juggling too much all at once. On top of it all, I was no longer connecting with my degree work; no longer was I finding reading Politics at Cambridge University something which excited me. Instead, it was like another burden, another thing which was preventing me from committing myself to everything which I was involved in.

Fundamentally then, what I have learnt from this term is how to not get the balance right. I completely overkilled it. Last week I made the decision to leave the trialling process with CULRC as something had to give and in truth I feel so much better about it now I have dropped the sport. My waistline may disagree, as I now have no weight restrictions and can just bumble along as merry little me through christmas. So much good food, so little time to eat it all – if you know my family, then you know how true this is.

But on to pastures new, turn over a new leaf, all those ridiculous phrases that you get sick of no end when it comes to the new year…they’re all starting a month early for me. Now is my fresh start, with the rowing behind me I can move on to concentrate on spending the Christmas break catching up on the reading that escaped me, pinging off applications for summer work that I had tried to pretend never even existed, and spending time with my family who I have severely neglected over the past 3 months.

Learn the lesson from me kids: Cambridge is not a walk in the park. You do need to concentrate otherwise you will fall behind. Whilst it has so many good things on offer that you can dive straight in to – and I fully recommend that you do – you need to be sensible, and work out what fits well together, what can you realistically fit into a week without feeling like your brain is going to burst from restricting sleep to the bare minimum hours. I can only hope that I can get it right moving forward, and I tell you what, the day my mum doesn’t think I look exhausted when I see her during term time will be an absolute triumph.