Student Blog

First Year as a Cambridge Medic

On the 10th of January 2015 I received my offer letter from Downing to study Medicine. From that moment onwards, my future suddenly shifted into focus.

Medicine is a different subject than most, and I had heard was one of the hardest at Cambridge. Hence I was a little apprehensive to begin with, along with plenty of worries that every new person at Cambridge experiences: Will I actually understand the material? Am I going to be the dumbest person in the College? Is this all a sick, cruel joke and I actually didn’t get into Cambridge at all? That sort of thing.

Meeting all the other freshers and making small talk was a necessary evil, but at the end of Freshers’ Week I had found that I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was and had already found my closest friends at Cambridge. Throughout the year I noticed the medics and vets had a strange sort of bond that perhaps some other subjects didn’t, probably because we all did the exact same modules and therefore had gone through the exact same kind of trauma!

The apparent rumour that medics get no free time is a little exaggerated but there is some truth in it. Nonetheless, if you have good time management you can still do extracurricular activities and socialise, though there will be times you will just have to miss out. However, this is something we all learn to accept eventually – it comes with the degree.

All that aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year due to enjoying the three main modules which were biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. This genuine interest helped me stay on track throughout the year and just barely keep on top of all the work. Getting into the Cambridge way of learning was hard at first, as it is for everyone. I spent Michaelmas term mostly learning the ropes and trying to understand my own learning style. Having mocks at the start of Lent term was a terrifying but effective way to force us to sit down and learn the content (and also made me realise how much content there really was). During Lent term we were trying to balance in effect six different modules, although three of them were tiny in comparison. Nevertheless, this added to the existing stress that learning new material brought so I won’t deny that Lent term was tough, especially with two small yet compulsory exams at the end of it. Easter term was a strange experience and the exam period a memorable one to say the least. There were times that I felt like I was the dumbest person out of the medics – but this is a feeling nearly everyone experiences.

To sum up my first year it would be that I have genuinely loved almost every aspect of the material and haven’t completely sacrificed my social life either. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stressed at times throughout the year, or a little annoyed that I apparently had so much more work than my peers, but that is inevitable and also worth going through to pursue such a unique career later in life. Overall, I finished my first year at Cambridge without major catastrophe, so I’ll call that a success.

Orthi Shahzad

Hey guys, I’m Orthi! I’m currently a 2nd year medic at Downing. I went to a grammar school in Essex where I did Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths A-Levels with AS Further Maths. In my spare time, I love to socialise with friends, watch TV, go travelling and play piano.