From Cambridge to Cambridge!

Hi, everyone! I hope this post finds you well, and also, Eid Mubarak for people who are celebrating it!

Eid prayer near Cambridge University.

So, as I told you before, I am now settling in Cambridge, UK, and going to study in University of Cambridge for the next one year under Cambridge-MIT Exchange Program, which is possible because of BP sponsorship. Thank you so much, BP!

So, how does it feel to be in England and Cambridge for the first time?

My plane landed at around 7 a.m. in the morning, and the airport was soaking wet. London, as everyone has told me before, is just like Bogor, ‘Kota Hujan’ (‘Rain City’).

After I gathered with 15ish other MIT exchange students in the airport, we headed to Cambridge by a coach bus. When I arrived in my college, St. Edmund’s, I was surprised by how beautiful this place was.

Despite the fact that it’s the beginning of October already, the grass is still beautifully green, and the trees just started to turn orange. The weather is a bit chilly (since I came from Indonesia), but nonetheless, this place is so picturesque (here you go, SAT word!).

Punting in Cam River, anyone?

There are so many terms which only Cambridge students use here; for instance, they call disco as ‘bop’. There is also something called ‘punting’, as you can see above. Basically, you row using a flat-bottomed boat, using a pole that reaches to the bottom of the river, so you can push the boat forward. It is a tradition in England, and both Oxford and Cambridge have this.

Cambridge University system is really different than MIT system, so I’m having a hard time adjusting to it. However, don’t worry, in no time, I will be running with everyone else here, haha.

They have 31 colleges, which are basically dormitories in American college sense, but these colleges are ‘super-dorms’ because they are not only responsible for your accommodation, or meals, but also your academic life, and your well-being in general. Each college, for instance, has so many faculties from different departments who responsible for supervisions (MIT term: recitation, but in a group of 3-4, basically trying to go deeper from what have been taught in the lectures). Each college also has its own societies (MIT term: clubs, basically extracurricular activities), ranging from sports to music, from religion-related to arts. So, the colleges are integral parts of living in studying in Cambridge.

Each college also has its own gown, and each level of study also has its own gown. What is a gown? It’s basically an academical dress that is worn during formal college occasions. I had to wear one for my induction, and it’s quite expensive, 35 Pounds. However, I’m considering it as a good investment because I want to get involved in my college events and make the most out of them.

St. Edmund’s College (my college) undergraduate gown. Notice the blue button in the arms? Ignore my face, thank you.

My college, St. Edmund’s College, is a little bit far from CUED (Cambridge University Engineering Department), where I have my lectures. According to Google Maps, which means, if I walk fast enough, I can reach my department in 25 minutes.

However, when the weather is still relatively warm like now, I don’t mind walking down the street every day. It is just so beautiful!

King’s College, one of the oldest and most beautiful college in Cambridge.
I may need to get a bike though once the weather gets too cold. Talking about bike, Cambridge is a bike town. Everyone bikes everywhere. It might be because the streets are narrow, and it’s really inconvenient to get from one place to another. The bikers are really scary, they paddle really fast through the town. As a pedestrian, sometimes I need to get super careful, because bikers always come out of nowhere in junctions.
Besides the fact that St. Edmund’s is so far that I need to walk 1 hour a day to go back and forth, my college is also the most international one. 80 countries are represented, and it reminds me of UWC, my high school, a little bit. Yesterday, we had a ‘British tea time’ and I talked to many people from different parts of the world. This is something that is uncommon in MIT, because only 10% of undergraduates are internationals.
St. Edmund’s is also a mature college, meaning that only 21+ students can join. Hence, there are not so many undergraduates here. There are also so many male students. It’s a big jump for me, because I lived in all-female dorm back in MIT for two years. It’s like a double minority in this college: a female and an undergraduate, haha. However, it’s really nice to talk to elder students, because they mostly have worked before, taken a gap year, or just had awesome life experience in general. 
Another thing that I found really interesting is the ‘bedder’, which refers to the housekeeper who cleans our room, changes our sheets (or linen, as the British calls it), and empties the bins in our rooms. Yes, that’s right, people, someone come into my room and tidies it up. 
Those are the first few days in general. I am still preparing my mental to face the big difference in academic side here, because the system is completely different (They don’t call buildings by numbers! There are no problem sets! All final exams are at the end of the year!). Hopefully, I will be fine and can ‘move’ smoothly to this new system. Wish me luck, friends, and expect another long blog post soon, haha. Thanks for reading, have a super good weekend.

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