Monday, 11 February 2013

(Cam)bridge over troubled water

I have returned from Cambridge University.  So what did I think of this fabled, supposedly elitist institution?

Well, it was alright really.

But perhaps this judgement is more indicative of my increasingly widespread apathy towards all things than the quality of the experience, or the place. Of course, I enjoyed the trip quite a lot, and appreciate its value in informing me of what the Oxbridge university experience is really like. Many people, particularly those from areas where admittance to top universities is low, hold strong preconceptions of the nature of these institutions partly fuelled by the media and good old-fashioned class rivalry. After experiencing the university for myself, not only do I now realise most of these preconceptions are inaccurate, but how astounding it is that these perceptions are made so readily with none or little evidence, or indeed experience.

I can't really condemn this ignorance too much, as it's largely resultant of people simply not having the opportunity of discovering the nature of Cambridge for themselves, and also because I fell under this category until not too long ago. It seems much of the venom comes from the common dislike of 'poshness'. I don't really like 'posh' people, but not much more than I dislike everyone else. Indeed, some of the people I met were quite 'posh'; but in that pleasant, BBC 4 way, not the spitting in the eyes of the poor way. Indeed, the experience has made me doubt the validity of this latter perception, albeit predominantly on a personal level only. There's still that creeping sense of injustice, that Cambridge is most accessible to those with private education; though I should say, this isn't necessarily the fault of Cambridge, as the existence of the scheme itself proves their willingness to extend participation. The evil here is the fact that we still have this two-tier educational system in sixth forms and the stages that precede that, where the privileged have access to a generally better education while those who are not have to settle for poorly funded, patronising shit; as manifested by the statistically lower results and lower top university applications. Not that I'm bitter about it or anything. And I realise saying this detracts from the intended frivolity of this all, but good teachers in all institutions should be commended for doing the best they can under increasingly hostile circumstances.

But anyway, enough of that. The class divide is too depressing to discuss, and just too well concealed to fully argue its existence if we're taking the paranoid teenager approach. What we should focus on is that the people I met at Cambridge did not really conform to stereotypes, instead simply being bright, hard-working relatively normal and pleasant people. I probably felt more accepted amongst them than I do amongst the general persons at college, I must admit, not to say they were perfect. They were just a bit too rational, balanced as individuals and, well, cheery for my liking. Where, I ask, is the fun in that?

Conclusion? Lovely place, and I shall definitely apply if I do sufficiently well in my AS year. But, for the first time, it doesn't feel like the absolute haven, the 'be-and-end-all' I always imagined it to be.

There's always Southampton Solent. Snigger.


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