What a difference a month makes October 26, 2008Posted by dolorosa12 in memories.
Tags: cambridge, memories
I’ve been in Cambridge for just over one month, so I thought it was about time to bore you all with my impressions of the place and my experiences. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here this long, because it seems like only yesterday I was dumped unceremoniously at Parker’s Piece, shivering in the cold, numbed with tiredness and tense with anxiety, to find my way to my college and then my house. But then I think about how much I’ve done in the past few weeks – a whirlwind of parties and pub crawls and Latin verb declensions and phone meetings with my supervisor and late-night conversations on the stairs with my housemates – and I feel that it is impossible, that I couldn’t possibly have lived so much in four short weeks.
My life is kind of divided in three, so I shall talk about each third separately.
The first third is, of course, my research, classes and the people associated with it. I’d like to say that it’s going well, but not quite as well as I’d like. My supervisor is great, the perfect combination of friendly, helpful and scary. She gives me good suggestions for books, but, being out of the country, isn’t quite as effective at prodding me to work as would be ideal. The big thing this term is the review-of-scholarship, a 5000-word literature review. My reading is going fine, but the actual writing is not going so well. I wrote 800 words this weekend. Whether they’re good words is another matter entirely. As long as I have 3000 words by the end of this week, though, I’ll be right on track.
My degree is partly coursework-based, so I take classes. I’m studying medieval Irish, Latin and medieval Welsh, as well as Modern Irish (which is just for fun and not assessed) and attending M.Phil (Masters) seminars and graduate student seminars. These all, of course, require a lot of work. Just to give you an idea, last week I: translated a whole story from the Táin, did three pages of Latin exercises, translated a big chunk of De raris fabulis, read about 80 Psalms for my M.Phil seminar, and did many pages of Modern Irish exercises. My right little finger has acquired a blister from resting against the page for prolonged periods of time.
Luckily, since I spend so much time there, the people in the ASNaC department are fantastic. They’re just the right mix of nerdy and crazy. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk to people who know what Buile Suibhne and Longes mac nUislenn are. Also, they’re quite fond of a party, the ASNaC crowd. We have drinks on Mondays after the grad seminars, and drinks on Friday nights (this pub is, fabulously, around the corner from my house). I suppose when we’re all studying stories where most characters spend a fair amount of time ‘at the drinking of mead’, it shouldn’t be surprising.
The next third of my time is taken up with my housemates. I’m lucky to live in a house of very sociable and friendly people. This manifests itself in big ways – such as last night, when we had a big housewarming party, inviting friends and other people from our college – or in smaller ways, such as the fact that we all cook dinner at the same time, spending a few hours each night gossiping and chatting in the kitchen. There’s none of this ‘phantom flatmate’ hiding-in-his-or-her-bedroom business here.
My final third of time is taken up with societies and clubs that I’m involved in. I’m doing two things. I volunteer at a community cafe, which is nice and laid-back and gives you that warm, fuzzy volunteering feeling. I’ve also taken up trampolining, which is mad fun. I’ve only been three times, and yesterday I learned how to do full turns into a back drop, which is scary but surprisingly elegant when you get the hang of it. Being a gymnast, I can grasp the concepts better than other first-timers, so that I know, for example, if you keep your body tight, things will work out easier for you, but it’s still a little bit scary. Trampolines are just so bouncy, and a lot of the trampolining moves seem, to my gymnast’s mentality, like falling over – you know, that thing you’re not supposed to do. But it’s lots of fun.
So, all up, I’d say, Cambridge is going well. Oh, that’s not to say that I’m never homesick, or that I don’t have days when I wake up in the morning thinking, ‘What the hell was I thinking when I decided to come here?’ but in general, I’m cheerful. Sometimes I’m in a black mood and feel like I’ll snap with irritation the next time I have to translate my Australianism into British (or American) English. Sometimes a wave of anguish hits me when I think it’s been a month since I’ve seen my mother or sister’s face. Sometimes I want to shriek with rage that I am such a blank canvas to everyone around me, my history as yet unknown and irrelevant. But mostly I wake up cheerful, confident in the knowledge that I’m doing what I want to do, in a place I want to be, surrounded by people who, if not yet friends or family or surrogate family in the way of those I’ve got back in Australia, may become such things to me in the future.