A Reflection on Year 1

This year has been a ridiculous amount of fun. And learning. I have successfully cooked for myself for a year without dying of food poisoning, made some incredible friends, and have a new place to call home. Thought I’d begin with a throwback to the very start of the year, followed by a list of the lessons I’ve since learned. Enjoy.


At the beginning. The above photo was taken at matriculation dinner, way back in October 2015. Lucy and I met a week before term started at a CICCU (Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) Fresher’s Getaway. It was a wonderful time away and we got to pray together ahead of heading to Cambridge. I remember hoping to not be staying too far from Lucy in College, but since our rooms are allocated randomly across all the accommodation buildings, I knew that statistically that was wishful thinking. When I found out a week later that Lucy was literally just around the corner, 10m away from my room, I prayed a prayer of thanks to the Lord! To me, our friendship over those first couple of weeks was truly the blessing and provision of God.

Fresher’s ‘week’ was a crazy few days and you meet so many people but have very few actual conversations. I remember telling Lucy it felt like having a week of canapé conversations. The times we talked were the only full meals – do me a favour and go with the metaphor! The first night we were in college, we cobbled together a meal and sat eating on the floor of Lucy’s room (thanks to Chris Traxson who sent me off with dhal which we ate that first night). This was not before I had dropped a glass bottle of oil (that Chris had also given to me, sorry!) and realised that there wasn’t any kitchen roll, so swept up the glass and then diluted and washed oil around the floor for a while. Not long after this, Lucy cut herself with a knife – at least we quickly located where the first aid box was for future reference! I look back with fondness on that time, it already feels like such a long time ago, so much has happened since.

On week 4 of Michaelmas term I proposed to Lucy (bottom left). At all of the colleges (as far as I know) you get given college parents, students from the year above, when you join as a fresher to help you settle in etc. Since Newnham is a female college, people are given college Mums (at other colleges there’s usually a Mum and Dad). This is why people who parent together are said to be “married”. The idea is, that as a fresher, you choose someone to “marry” so that you are a college Mum with them the following year. Before you can marry, one of you proposes to the other in whichever way you see fit. Luckily she said yes to my proposal, and we have enjoyed the best college marriage around ever since. Each term, on week 0, we go and have lunch together at Byron’s. We also see each other every day in term-time.

For Lucy, who will read this at some point I’m sure, thank you for being wonderful. Thank you for always eating the remainder of my iceburg lettuces. You have much better style and music taste than I do. You help me chill and let go of things when I’m taking life too seriously. You are so patient and full of grace and I love you a whole lot. I am immensely privileged to have been able to introduce you to the fish-finger sandwich, the dog of wisdom video and I am so sorry that I do not appreciate coffee enough. May we enjoy our last two years of college matrimony in splendour!

Life Lessons learned:

  • There are many, many things more important than work. The first time I re-arranged a supervision was Lent term when I had tonsilitis. Moving it felt really difficult, I felt really guilty and also hated that I was asking only about 3 hours from the deadline for the essay I hadn’t written. So what? An essay is an essay and I was busy being ill.
  • Specifically, relationships are the most important. The time I have in Cambridge is limited and I have so many friends living less than 5 minutes away from me, possibly the only time of my life that this will be true. I’ve learned that time spent with friends is always time well-spent. I won’t remember the essay title, but I will remember the memories made with friends. Also friends last longer than essays.
  • Rest. My church Holy Trinity (HT), is wonderful in many ways. In particular, the rest space it provides for me each Sunday is amazing. My faith has been so important this year in being my source of strength. Quiet time is not something that can be cut away when things are busy.
  • Don’t put mini pasta stars in carrot soup. Not sure why I ever thought this might work. It didn’t, please don’t be me.
  • Famous people are people, famous universities are universities. I mean, in some ways obvious, but I really learned this lesson this year. I am so grateful for the many wonderful and extraordinary people I have met this year, and I am so aware of the privilege I enjoy studying where I do. I also know in a deeper way that happiness isn’t found in earthly markers of success.
  • Always have a full biscuit tin. This is a lesson Siân taught me, whether she knows it or not. Also that simple joys are the best joys. Like blowing bubbles in the garden on a Saturday morning.
  • When everything is too much, do the washing up. It’s quick to do and it will clear both mental space and actual room space. Being diligent in the small things will help you tackle the big things, I promise.
  • Things must get messier to get tidier again. This is my firm belief after 6 lots of packing up for a new term or going home.
  • Let go of what’s not made for you. In the first term I was super keen to row. As a rare morning person in a land of student lie-ins, I thought it was meant to be. As soon as I had to use an erg (rowing machine), things went downhill. It just wasn’t any fun without the water. Also I will never be quite as cool as Lucy. And that’s ok.
  • Above all other things, cultivate love. Use this time to grow as a person. University will show you where your priorities lie, because you’ll automatically allocate more time to what you value. Take it steady, be kind to yourself, and remember that becoming a better version of yourself is the best thing you can use the time for, and that means learning to love.



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