Is it all just work?
Aside from work and having a social life, in the last 3 years I have been on the University team racing sailing team, mixed lacrosse team, started a College volleyball club, and occasionally played College netball and lacrosse – and that’s just the sport! I’ve also found time to write for a term for the new University sports newspaper (it’s called the Blue Bird for those who are interested: not that I’m plugging it!). But that’s just an insight into the – probably thousands of – opportunities that are available here.
One of the highlights for me has been the time I’ve spent on the JCR. Each Cambridge College has it’s own student committee (JCR = Junior Combination Room), with various student representatives on board – for example, there are welfare officers, an academic affairs & careers officer and a green officer. It’s probably similar to what a lot of secondary schools or sixth forms have, but with more positions on it! The JCR is responsible for raising student issues with the College such as ongoing student campaigns (an example of one is getting the college to support the living wage for their workers), accommodation issues, and facilities problems. We also organise a whole variety of events in College, ranging from careers talks to big parties!
In my first year me and a friend decided to take on the role of Head Fresher’s Reps – which, we slowly realised, involved fundraising and organising the whole Fresher’s week for the 100-and-something new students who would be arriving at Downing the next September. We got to choose 13 other Downing students to help us do the job, and learnt a lot about event planning in the months that followed… I’d probably go as far to say that I had more fun doing this than I did in my own freshers week – we went to the events, met all the new students, but didn’t have to worry about making friends the second time round!
The opportunities didn’t end there though; in my second year I’d had so much fun that I decided to go for President. I’ve spent the last year sitting on an assortment of College Committees ranging from the Buildings and Environment Committee to the Governing Body, continuing to organise lots of events, doing the student accommodation ballot and dealing with student concerns! I’ve also had insight into the organisational structure of charitable bodies (all the Cambridge Colleges are legally registered as charities), and a whole new range of career opportunities and experiences.
My experiences of Downing, and Cambridge generally in the last 3 years, is that the perception of it as a place where people work very hard overshadows another of it’s greatest assets: it is a place of opportunity.