A Short Summer Spent Studying at Cambridge

Laura Spenceley, Bachelor of Science/Laws

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Not long after my semester one exams this year, I headed to the United Kingdom for a 2-week short-term exchange program at Cambridge University. This program not only met but exceeded every expectation I had – including the surprisingly very hot English Summer.

Life in Cambridge and England

Prior to the program beginning on Sunday the 8th of July, I flew to London (Stansted) and arrived in Cambridge on Friday afternoon. I then had two (very hot) days to explore a beautiful city and get to know the university and some of its colleges prior to my program.

Arriving at Selwyn college

As a student city, Cambridge is very accessible and easy to get around. It was a short half-hour train journey from the Stansted airport, but once you are in Cambridge it is very easy to navigate on foot. Most students and residents of Cambridge prefer cycling as a mode of transport. Considering that the city of Cambridge is mostly comprised of the University itself, Wi-Fi is easily accessible everywhere you go. This was definitely a bonus while travelling and made getting around quite easy.

Arriving at Selwyn college

After 2 weeks at Cambridge, I spent a few days in London and the rest of the week travelling around France to make the most of my trip to the other side of the world – which was quite a relaxing end to a whole lot of learning at the University.

The Summer Program

One of the program highlights would have to be the experience of life at a Cambridge college. While in Australia most students live at home and commute to uni, at a University almost 200 years older than QUT with 31 historical colleges to choose from, students live on campus during term time and either walk or cycle to classes. At Selwyn College, I stayed in a private room which overlooked Old Court and the dining Hall where we had meals each morning and night. This was a quick 5-minute walk to the where all of the Summer courses teaching was held at Sidgwick site (next-door).

The view of Old Court from my accommodation in a college room.

The academic program was run over the course of 2 weeks, with 4 science lectures per day between 9am and 9pm. During these hours, we had morning plenary (core) lectures and evening talks which were each run by a different Cambridge lecturer or subject specialist, as well as 2 elected courses per week. I am glad these gave me the opportunity to study things I probably wouldn’t study at home as part of my science degree, such as learning about Polar Research and Autism Research based in Cambridge. Evening talks included topics such as a mathematician on the Enigma Machine, and the engineering behind the ‘Dambusters’ bouncing bomb during World War 2.

Cambridge University Museum of Zoology.

The University Library

Outside of the classroom, my chosen courses involved two visits to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, the University museums (Museum of Zoology, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, and Fitzwilliam Museum). The Summer Program also included a piano recital one night in St. John’s College, a reception for the 95th anniversary of the Program at the beautiful Queens’ College and went on a traditional ‘punt’ on the River Cam over the weekend with some of the other students I met on the course. Our final night as Cambridge students was marked by a formal closing dinner in the dining hall, with the presentation of certificates.

Dining Hall at Selwyn College

Finishing the course.

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