Billy Pinder was a Cambridge Immerse 2015 Summer Mentor. He read English as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, and is currently pursuing the Management tripos at the Cambridge University Judge Business School. In this article, Billy reflects upon his experience as an undergraduate at university.
It goes without saying that Cambridge University, as a world-leading educational institution, will teach you things of both incredible quantity and quality. Irrespective of the subject that you study, you have access to some of the world’s foremost academics, experts in all the fields of knowledge worth knowing. You live and breathe learning throughout your time at Cambridge because you’re surrounded not only by tremendous teachers, but also by tremendous fellow pupils. You live and study alongside the best and the brightest, and these people (this includes you) will ultimately go on to do great things in their careers, whether that is in business, in science, in art, or working with charities.
I completed an English degree in the summer of 2015 but have remained in Cambridge to study a one-year course in Management at the university’s Judge Business School. During my study of English I learned an astonishing amount, including, but in no way limited to: the role of violence in medieval literature, the importance of size and scale in mock-heroic poetry of the eighteenth-century, and the use of aural aesthetics in the poetry of the First World War. In my final year I did my dissertation on the evolving state of masculinity in contemporary New York fiction. The range and detail of Cambridge’s courses is astounding, but irrespective of the course you ultimately study, in my view Cambridge teaches you something that is just as valuable and just as important as the course content.
The pressures, intellectual rigour, and number of other activities on offer while studying at Cambridge demands that you are organised, motivated, efficient, effective, and, above all, able to “just get things done”. That may sound incredibly general, so let me specify. I mean that Cambridge automatically forces you to be one of those people that has two one-hour lectures back-to-back in the morning, a supervision on an essay that you submitted earlier in the week, training for a sports team you’re involved in or rehearsal for a play you’re featuring in during the rest of the afternoon, a formal dinner to celebrate someone’s birthday or some other social event in the evening, and then, when you think you’re done for the day, you need to finally put pen to paper on that essay you’ve been brainstorming ideas about or question sheet you’ve been preparing, so you stay up until after midnight to get it submitted. That might seem scary, but you just acclimate to that sort of life. You’ll be surprised how quickly you become used to powering from completing one activity or task to starting another.
The ability to power from one task to another, regardless of your subject or extra-curricular interests, is underpinned by being organised and disciplined with your time, working hard when you need to but chilling out when you don’t, finding ways where you can squeeze in half an hour of work before you dash off to some event or some form of practice, and by knuckling down when you actually sit down to work instead of complaining about your workload. You have to be positive and motivated.
Your ability to “just get things done” is developed and honed by realising that Cambridge is not solely about education, by appreciating that there is more to a Cambridge education than just education. You should get involved with as much as you can in Cambridge. Compete in a sport for your college or for the university, be active in the student body, throw yourself into extra-curricular activities such as drama, art, or the vast array of clubs and societies across your college and the university as a whole. There is something for everyone – there’s always some activity that caters to even the strangest and most niche of personal interests.
Learning how to maximise your efficiency, to leverage your motivation, and to use your time to the most productive ends is a skill that any Cambridge degree teaches you. But unlike knowledge of the role of violence in medieval literature, it is a skill that has tangible application and worth in the real world. It is a skill that employers from all industries value. They know the stresses and strains of a Cambridge education. If you can verbalise and demonstrate how you thrived in numerous different areas while at Cambridge then they will know that you are ready and capable to take on the real world. Do everything you can to get into Cambridge, and make the most of it while you’re there.
Please note that all views and opinions expressed above are the author’s own. Cambridge Immerse is a leading independent summer school that is not affiliated with Cambridge University.