District High School, Texas, USA
The biggest question I faced when applying to university was what subject I should focus on. This was a problem; I love literature and science equally, so many weeks were spent agonizing over the issue. Eventually I found a better question to ask: in which subject can I really work on the edge of the unknown? The answer to that was, of course, science. Only Cambridge offered the sort of whole-scale course I was looking for – Natural Sciences, a vibrant environment in which interdisciplinary exchange is not only possible but sought after.
As I was in America at the time, visiting individual colleges in person was impossible; I chose Clare because of the musicality and friendliness for which it was renowned, and because the gardens looked beautiful. All three things were more true than I could have realized. Nearly everyone you talk to here plays an instrument or sings, and although some are intimidatingly skilled, the majority are happy to sing or play with you at the drop of a hat; the atmosphere in supervisions is always one of friendly cooperation, and there’s always someone willing to help you through a tricky topic or week; and the gardens are open in revision term to anyone who can’t stand the sight of the library any more and simply must finish their reading upon a bench near a pool filled with lilies. I’ve heard people from other colleges say similar things about Clareite friendliness, so it’s not just bias!
Clare is also the perfect environment for extracurricular activities. Sure, the work at Cambridge is time-consuming, but the Directors of Studies and supervisors here never insist that work become your whole life. The boat club is predictably one of the friendliest on the river, we have an unauditioned choir that sings music from a wide range of genres (world folk music, musicals, popular songs)… there is even a knitting club that meets in one of the most comfortable rooms in college to drink tea and make woollen goods, and a gardening club with its own allotment in Colony. I honestly couldn’t have chosen a better college (and this may be bias, but it is wholehearted bias.)
My first year courses were Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, and Biology of Cells. The three are surprisingly complementary, especially for those interested in gaining a wider understanding of the interdependency of Earth systems. I would recommend that any curious first-year look into Earth Sciences, especially if they haven’t considered it before; the course is taught by lecturers unafraid to admit that the material is evolving as they speak, and has a variety of field trips to get you out of the Cambridge “bubble”. I continued in second year with this broad approach to subject choice, with Earth Sciences A, Plant Sciences, and Animal Biology. As a third year Zoologist, I can say that keeping a wide range of subjects into the second year was a perfect choice, despite doubts and doubters at the time! I want to become a field biologist, and the postgrad courses I’m applying for all value the wide perspective these courses allowed me to develop.