I almost always need some form of a push to write a blog post. Although I knew I was going to share my experience in Cambridge particularly after sharing part 1 of how I got the full LL.M Commonwealth scholarship, for some reason I still wasn’t too inspired to write about Cambridge. Until a couple of weekends ago. We were visiting friends, and in the middle of the conversation one of our friends pointed to another’s teenage daughter and said, “she’s like you oh, she had 9 A* in her GSCEs“.

First off, I countered the fact that that was like me – that was so much better than me. 9A* is incredible. So naturally, the conversation progressed to what university she’d love to attend and she said “Cambridge!” to study medicine. Ah, that totally pulled me out of my shell, as we got talking about life in Cambridge, the colleges, and my experience in general.  I loved reminiscing about it, and I’ll try to share in this post as much as I can!

To continue from Part 1, right after the scholarship came through, and before the visa application, I had to sort out medicals and accommodation. Medicals were pretty straight forward – weight, height and some urine tests. It was, however, the first time I realised that I had put on so much weight – when I saw 63kg on the report, I almost fainted. Anyway I digress, but you can read all about my bingo wings and the easiest hack ever to get rid of them.

Ok, let’s get into the real crux of this post, as I share some highlights of life and living in Cambridge.

Studying at Cambridge University with a Scholarship

1. Collegiate system / Accommodation

To understand accommodation in Cambridge, we need to take about the collegiate system. During the application process, this was a bit hard to understand. Cambridge & Oxford operate the collegiate system –  there are several semi-autonomous colleges in the university where students live and have extra curricular activities. Each student must belong to a college. Many undergraduates often take seminars in their college as well and are interviewed and admitted to a college.

Each college is different and some like Kings, St Johns or Trinity were more prestigious than others. Some are for graduate students only and there are three only women colleges in Cambridge. Each college would have its own accommodation, recreation facilities, libraries, meeting / class rooms, sport societies and teams etc. Basically pretty much everything you’d expect to find in a university. Think of a college as a mini-university. There’d be proper student representatives and a full board of the college. One highlight of the academic year was usually the May Ball – with most colleges looking to put up a spectacular ball.

For those who know, when speaking to someone who attended Cambridge, one of the first questions they ask  is usually “what college were you in?”. And even while making job applications, or filling certain forms, each college is treated differently. You will often see a drop down box for each college – University of Cambridge – College A; University of Cambridge – College B. Some employers will also typically recruit only from certain high profile colleges.

At the time of applying, I really couldn’t care less, and so my choice of colleges was influenced by the ones that had full scholarships to offer! Unfortunately I didn’t get into any. But usually – at least at graduate level once you have been offered an admission at faculty level, a college is bound to offer you admission as well. And so, I got offered to Hughes Hall.

Hughes Hall was a relatively new college (it was founded in 1885 and the first University college was founded in 1284)  and consisted mostly of graduate students. As my scholarship letter came in rather late, I couldn’t be guaranteed college accommodation and was advised to search for non-college accommodation which just seemed like a hassle to me. Thankfully though, I eventually got offered one offsite, on Glisson Road and about 4 minutes away from the college grounds. It was a 5 bedroom house to be shared with 4 other students. I was looking forward to meeting them!

2. Arrival & First Impressions

I boarded a direct flight from Lagos to London Heathrow. My mum had been insistent that it was going to be cold, and bought me a pair of white trainers. Her good intentions not withstanding, those trainers were so not pretty – looked like what a 10 year old may wear. So I took it off on the plane and wore my sandals. Tee picked me up from the airport (noting how chubby I seemed!), to Coventry where he was at that time, as my accommodation wasn’t set to be open till the next two days.

I remember dressing up for church the next day like I was in Nigeria – wearing a 5 inch heel, because he had said the church was round the corner. Let’s just say that’s the last time that happened. Next up, we had to buy jackets as I hadn’t come with many. I literally followed his lead and he picked out a wine coat and black leather jacket. I later realised that the wine one appeared to be a maternity one and the leather one was a size 14 or so! What was he thinking? We also stopped by at Chicken Cottage for our meal and somewhat first official photo. Right after that, he bought some Nigerian food items and made some proper meal.

Moving from Nigeria to the UK for Study

On Monday, we took a National Express coach into Cambridge – about a 2 and a half hour journey and arrived at the coach station in Park Side – to locate Hughes Hall and my home for the next 9 months. The house somewhat disappointed me – the rooms were tiny (at least mine was). I couldn’t believe I had to pay £550 a month for that space. We also didn’t have a general living room like other houses although our kitchen was fairly large (by UK standards) with a dining table. We also didn’t have to clean, as we had the cleaners come in to clean common areas. Some colleges also had cleaners clean their rooms. If you’ve heard that Cambridge or Oxford students can be a bit spoilt, this is one of the reasons why.

I emptied all of my Nigerian packed food items – taking up so much space in the common freezer (perhaps to the annoyance of other residents).  After this, we went shopping for pots & cooking essentials, beddings and other basic stuff. Later that evening, I noticed a fish & chip shop and decided to get one. Probably, the last time I ever did, as I realised it was deep-fried fish in batter and not the Nigerian-style openair grilled fish!

I later met my roommates, 2 of whom I think were PhD students. 2 were Chinese, 1 was American and the last guy was Asian-British. For some reason, we never really bonded as roommates – everyone pretty much kept to themselves. We’d say hi to each other and have a brief conversation occasionally,  but that was it. I had a bit of a relationship with the American and it was the first time I knew what Autism was – as that was what her PhD research was centred on. I had barely settled into classes, but my learning had already begun. And I often think that it’s this sort of learning that make overseas degrees and travelling exposure valuable. She also attempted to teach me how to ride a bike, but that didn’t quite work out.

Over the next couple of days, there were various welcome events at the College grounds, and I don’t think I had ever seen so many different people in one place. We got introduced to the college, its facilities, and administrators, societies and groups etc.

3. Matriculation

As mentioned above, matriculation is done at your college. And so this took place a couple of days after I arrived. I don’t recall it being a formal ceremony – but we did take a group photo which appeared in the graduation handbook. Much later, there was a Matriculation dinner – the first of many dinners in Cambridge. I had a good time, and there I met Jill from Grenada who became my close buddy, and saved me a ton of salon money! Till today, I’ve never really met someone who could straighten my hair as she could. She was doing a masters program in Linguistics and focusing on the creole (sort of pidgin) language of Grenada.

3. Academics / School Work

School began on the 4th of October 2012. The academic calendar is divided into three – Michaelmas Term, Lent Term and Easter Term with Easter Term being exam term. The LL.M duration is quite short at only nine months September to June. We were required to take 4 modules, but could decide to write 3 examinations and 1 dissertation. I didn’t fancy a dissertation so I opted for 4 examinations.

The law faculty was a good 40 mins walk from my house. Many people often rode on their bikes to get into class. But I didn’t have a bike and couldn’t even ride one. So come rain or shine or snow, I walked!

I think we had classes four times a week. Each module was a 2-hour lecture and that was it. I opted for more corporate and commercial law modules. Personally, I think teaching wasn’t too intense. But ofcourse we had long reading lists and resource materials we were expected to go through. It could get overwhelming and many people often spent so much time in their faculty or college libraries. We also didn’t have any tests or courseworks. There were a few optional essays every term you could write and submit to the tutors if you wished for feedback. I generally did at least one essay for each course per term, to gauge my understanding of the modules.

It was probably also the first time, I came across open-book examinations! For 3 of the four courses, we were allowed to take in our class notes, textbooks, statute books, everything! While there’s obviously an advantage to this, as you don’t have to cram a lot of unnecessary things, it’s not so much easier than a closed book exam. The expectations are much higher and time is short. No way you can start flipping through pages in the exam hall. In some cases, I barely got a chance to flip open any book.

Unlike schooling in Nigeria, we were made to think very critically. There were often no right answers or a ‘marking scheme’. Your opinions and views were valid provided there was a line of reasoning or argument. I understood and sharpened my critical thinking and the need to be more analytical.

4. Living & Extra Curricular

If there’s one thing I wish I could change, it’s definitely the duration of my stay in Cambridge. 9 months was way too short. I often felt like I had only just settled in, and all of a sudden it was time to pack my bags and leave. Undergraduates or PHD students who spend 3 years there often have the best time!

But I enjoyed living in Cambridge so much. I walked everywhere, and I didn’t really mind as  I was trying to shed some weight. There were buses, but I probably only took a bus a couple of times throughout my stay. The buildings were old, the streets were cobbled and I would often spend so much time in the shops simply looking around. I registered for the gym which was super close to my house, and actually did go pretty religiously! I also got involved in volunteering and joined the Hughes Hall netball team. The catholic church was again about 5 mins walk from my house so that was convenient.

Religious life in Cambridge University as a student

I cooked a lot of my own food, and so really didn’t eat much outside except I was meeting up with friends. And even with friends, we often cooked or had potluck dinners.

Two things are worth mentioning in relation to extra curricular in Cambridge: Formals & Punting!

Formals

A formal in Cambridge is really just a dinner (but you know we have to be extra about everything). So there were often several formals held in different colleges. The very traditional ones reminded you of Harry Potter. Long halls, students in robes, and candles on the tables. Some were less formal. The idea was to simply have a good dinner and mix with people. You were also allowed to attend formals in other colleges so it was a good way to get to meet people. Some people attended formals so often! These had to be paid for, and so I only attended a few. Plus I was never really filled up after the meal, nor did I enjoy it a great deal so….

Punting

When you visit Cambridge, you have to go Punting. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water and punting refers to boating in a punt with the punter propelling the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

Weirdly enough I don’t recall punting in Cambridge, but when I visited the rival / sister university Oxford – my friends and I went punting!

5. Rivalry with Oxford

Oxford and Cambridge have a long history of rivalry sort of, and it’s so interesting. Both universities are however often referred to as Oxbridge and have a lot in common. They both date back over 800 years, although Oxford was founded first, and Cambridge essentially became an offshoot of Oxford founded in about 1208!

There are so many notable persons who have graduated from both universities that one can understand the prestige that comes with it. They both have similar facilities such as publishing houses (you may have noticed that a lot of your textbooks are published by Cambridge University Press or Oxford University Press), botanical gardens, libraries, business schools etc. They often compete in sports with the annual Boat Race being a huge highlight. Oxford is distinct in some ways. Students have to wear a formal robe during examinations and a Doctor of Philosophy degree is referred to as a D.Phil and not  PhD.

Fun fact: Up until the 19th century , only men were allowed to receive degrees from both institutions! 

Anyway, while in Cambridge I had to visit the sister university and quite had a good time! I think it was also the first time I met and had a conversation with a vegetarian. Right after his ‘lecture’, I think I stayed off meats for a week.

6. Graduation

All good things must come to an end they say. Graduation was 28th of June 2013 for Hughes Hall LL.M students and some other colleges. I remember being slightly upset about the graduation outfit. We could only wear a white shirt on a black skirt or a black dress. Pretty boring huh? Especially after I’d seen lots of friends graduation photos from other UK universities looking all glam in coloured clothes. I came to terms with it in the end – it’s part of the Cambridge tradition.

We were advised to wear comfy shoes as we had to walk for about half an hour or more. We started off with a light reception at the College, before finally proceeding to the Senate House for the actual ceremony where we hd to kneel to receive the certficate. Guess who lost her certificate a few hours later on the senate ground!? Thankfully we found it later that day.

In the next few weeks, I packed my suitcases, bade Cambridge farewell and finally returned to Nigeria in August per the terms of my scholarship.

In retrospect, I don’t think I totally maximised the experience in terms of really meeting people and going out of my comfort zone. It was such a new environment and I spent way too much time locked up in my tiny room. Tee & I had also been in a long-distance relationship and so we’d often try to spend free time together.

I went back to Cambridge sometime last year to represent my firm at a recruitment event. It was such a nostalgic feeling, but everywhere seemed so different. Now that I think about it, I just may organise a short weekend stay there soon – to breathe the Cambridge air once again, although it won’t be like the student experience. If I do, I’ll let you know how that goes!

If you have anything else you’d like to know, I’ll be happy to reply in the comments! Did you have to go out of your country for school or university? What was that like?

Love,

Kachee… Xx


Read too: My Cambridge University Story (Part I) – Getting a FullCommonwealth Masters (LL.M) Scholarship and 5 Things to Consider When Seeking a University (Foreign) Scholarship.


24 COMMENTS

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24 Comments

  1. Hilda

    September 12, 2017 at 11:42

    I love how detailed you were in this post. I didn’t study abroad for my undergraduate but I’m hoping to do so for my Masters and yes because of you I’m considering Cambridge if I choose the Uk. As always I look forward to more of your posts. Do have a blessed week ahead.http://www.momashairjourney

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:45

      You should totally consider. I think it’s such a lovely experience.

      Reply
  2. Praise Abu

    September 12, 2017 at 12:16

    Great post Kachi.Sadly I couldn’t get to view all the pictures from the post but I love how detailed you were in the post. My Style Look Book Series

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 13, 2017 at 11:56

      Aww Praise thanks. That’s a shame though re photos. Could you try again from another browser maybe? Or maybe it was network?

      Reply
  3. Bimpe

    September 12, 2017 at 18:38

    Detailed post…Well done Kachi! I like the pictures…I think Durham has many things in common with Cambridge and Oxford like the collegiate system (cleaning, ball, special lectures, matriculation, sports etc), teaching method, curriculum, vibrate sports and volunteering culture, structure of the Students Union, conservative graduation ceremony and so on. Like you, I wish I wasn’t almost always locked up in my room and mingled more with people of different culture and experiences. Strangely, my house mates who were a mix of British, Irish, South Korean, Chinese, Indian and Greek always liked to taste me food, which was mostly spicy (of course!). I walked a lot as well and learnt so much from the UK culture and governance in general. I liked the university buildings though they looked old on the outside but revamped on the inside.Overall, Durham was a rewarding experience!Bimpe

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:45

      That’s actually true. I think Durham and St.Andrews share some features with Oxbridge. Glad you had fab time in Durham!

      Reply
  4. Dee

    September 12, 2017 at 22:53

    I love this, first because I did not study in the UK so it’s all new to me so I’m soaking it all this, taking in the pictures and let my imagination fill in the rest of the blanks. The collegiate system is all just fascinating to me. At least I’ll have a clue if it ever comes up in conversation.9 months is a short time, but I agree that sometimes we need to seize the moment and hit the ground running right away as far as getting plugged in and meeting people. It seems like you did make some effort though. The student experience is special and once in a life time so I’d recommend embracing it fully. I think faced my books beginning of undergrad and then added fun bits the last 2.I think you actually look more or less the same from then to now…aging like fine wine!Roommates are always interesting, I had my fair share. Some I’m not in touch with, others are some of my best friends now.

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:44

      Hahahaha @ like fine wine. Thanks Dee.I think I failed to realise I needed to hit the ground running in that area. It was my first experience so… Hopefully, I’ve learnt now.

      Reply
  5. TheImmigrantsJourney

    September 14, 2017 at 04:01

    Lovely post, Kachi and with good details, making a reader share in your experience closely! I had my eyes wide open when i read the part that you lost your certificate… then read almost immediately, that you found it shortly after. Thank goodness!https://theimmigrantsjourne

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:43

      Girl, I was so scared – thinking it was lost forever. Thank goodness I found it.

      Reply
  6. RuthsTravel:Because I Believe

    September 14, 2017 at 22:04

    Awwwww… this was such a journey. It felt like I was present through it. It’s so well put together and totally an enjoyable read. becauseibelieveblog.com

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:43

      You’re such a star, thank you!

      Reply
  7. ifunanya Dibiaezue

    September 15, 2017 at 06:07

    Awww! This was such an amazing post. I love how detailed it is, you really took your time. Your old photos are so adorable. Noce post Kachi…xxxwww.sunlightdreamer.com

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:42

      Thank you hun!

      Reply
  8. Prossie N

    September 15, 2017 at 06:34

    This post was so relatable to me in so many ways. I was in Hughes Hall doing the LLM as well!I also lived offsite at the lovely Mawson Road. I hated the fish and chips as well and till today, I cannot stand salmon. Interestingly I also cooked my own food from the shops at the mighty Mill Road and never really bonded with my housemates that much. I never got down to punting and never rode a bicycle in my life so I used to walk the distance to school. I loved the gym at Parkside Pools and actually paid membership and religiously attended the fitness classes atleast 5 times a week.Two interesting things; Despite knowing how far the Senate was, I still rocked my heels for graduation. I was willing toundergo the discomfort to look good on my graduation day. Secondly, I never attended any formals other than the matriculation dinner and graduation dinner. I generally never liked the whole atmosphere at formals and seeing as I do not drink alcohol and hated half the food at halls, I really had no motivation for attending them.PS: It is shocking that there is a familiar face in your photos; Gabrielle.

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 15, 2017 at 08:42

      Awww Gabrielle was in my intake and LL.M class. I know Mawson road. I loved the Park Side gym too, and wanted to learn to swim there, but the £20 or so an hour seemed too much for a student like me.I think you either loved formals or hated them. Please do share your story with us! I think it’d be fun to read. *bats eyelids*

      Reply
      • Prossie N

        September 15, 2017 at 08:59

        I also wanted to learn how to swim but girl, that price per hour could easily have bought me tens of milkshakes from McDonald’s! I was like no please, thank you! LOL. I would definitely like to share my story. Hit me up on instagram whenever you are ready.

        Reply
  9. Demilade

    September 16, 2017 at 15:41

    I really enjoyed reading this, felt like I was there with you. It does sound like you had a great time, please do more posts about your time in Cambridge if you can :)Coco Bella Blog

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 19, 2017 at 09:32

      Aww thanks Demi!If there’s anything else that comes to me to share, I sure will.

      Reply
  10. Grace Smart

    September 27, 2017 at 14:05

    Beautiful and the pictures are lovely. Mehn, you were really chubby then but it was cute anyway. Thanks to tee for always having your back.www.liveinibadan.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      September 27, 2017 at 14:08

      Hahahaha. I know right! That was def the chubbiest I’ve ever been.

      Reply
  11. Olufisayo Adeleke

    October 1, 2017 at 00:54

    Oh my!!! I visited Cambridge the last week of my summer internship and I legit felt like I had not yet gone to University. Everywhere is so beautiful and kinda reminded me of Harry Potter. I walked everywhere and did not realise the work I gave myself until I got back to London and my legs ached for days…I think punting was overrated though…but overall Cambridge is BEAUTIFUL

    Reply
  12. Mitchell Awah

    October 2, 2017 at 18:27

    OK now I’m off to check if Cambridge has an LLM degree in my intended field. I want to do my Master’s next year and I’ve been looking at schools in the UK, Canada and even other parts if Europe.I’m also looking for funding so I intend to closely monitor Commonwealth, Chevening and other scholarship sites. Looking for admission AND funding is a lot of work but it has to be done. There’s no application fee for Cambridge, right?Also, I take it you did a general LLM and just chose modules that suited you?I think you did well taking so many photos. I’m such a very anti photo person that I’m afraid I’ll have absolutely no evidence when I eventually get to study abroad. I’m just lazy and I forget lol.Anyway lemme go continue my search. Narrow down schools, narrow down funding sources.You’re right. Nine months IS a short time. And like you, I’d much rather write exams than do a dissertation, so I hope I’ll get a school that’ll give me the option to choose.

    Reply
    • Kachee || KacheeTee.com

      October 2, 2017 at 18:41

      You should definitely check it out and monitor those sites closely. Apply to all – the more the merrier!Re General LL.M, yes indeed! There are only two Master of Laws programs – the general LL.M and the MCL (Masters in Corporate Law) which was introduced in my year. You pick the modules you want for the general LL.M but if you pick three modules from commercial, international or European law, you degree may be designated with such.There is an application fee of £50. Interestingly this was recently waived for candidates from almost 50 low income countries – but Nigeria isn’t on that list.Hahahaa- take photos! You’ll like that in retrospect and I hope you find a Uni that lets you skip the dissertation – they’re not very common I think.All the best hun! Xx

      Reply

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