The Cambridge Experience

Alternative Title: The Things I’ve Learned So Far

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for a week and a half already, but I suppose it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun (and when you’re researching 18th– and 19th century English public schools).  Since I’ve arrived, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Cambridge’s University Library (which is just one of its libraries and is absolutely HUGE.  I’ve gotten lost multiple times trying to navigate its many rooms).  Besides that, I’ve experienecd a morning prayer at one of the local Anglican churches, played a rather slippery game of soccer with some locals, and have explored Cambridge’s pubs, bookstores, and flea markets.  So, a comprehensive list of the tidbits of information I’ve gleaned:

  1. “Staircase wi-fi is the ONLY wi-fi.” The first day or so when we got here, our rooms decided that no, we couldn’t have internet. Thus began the massive exodus of UF students to the staircase, where there was good wi-fi. Although the Great Migration only lasted for about a day before we got internet in our rooms, it was rather entertaining to just hang out in the stairwell.
  2. It is NOT the Irish who eat a lot of potatoes, but rather the English. So many potatoes and in so many styles: “Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew” – Sam Gamgee would be proud.  I am convinced that St. Edmund’s must have bought the entire potato crop for the year.  They have other foods, of course, but it is fun to guess how the potatoes will be incorporated into the recipe this time.
  3. Edmund’s back road is an excellent place for Bike Riding 101 lessons. We’ve been given bikes to use during our stay here and two of our number have actually never learned how to ride bikes.  Thus commenced UF in Cambridge’s unofficial biking riding class, which resulted in much laughter and bonding (and wobbling, but alas, no falling!).
  4. Bees. Bees everywhere.  (Though maybe I’m paranoid since I’m not a huge fan of bees).  You occasionally have to have a showdown with an occasional bee or critter that has decided your bedroom looks pretty bright and inviting.  (We keep our windows open since there is no AC.)  I was working on a paper for class one night and suddenly found myself in the midst of a showdown.  I showed that bee my prevailing bravery, by which I mean I immediately dove out of my room to escape and commenced to figure a way to get said bee out of my room.  In the end, I emerged victorious and the bee, as far I know, survived. Win-win all around.
  5. Tea time is the best time. Pretty much every day St. Edmund’s has tea time at 11am, so we gather for a short time to snack on delicious chocolate cookies and warm tea in the common room, where we get to know some of the other visiting scholars and local students who have stayed for the summer.

At this point, I’m half-way through my time at Cambridge, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  You work hard and play hard here, and I’ve found my independent research project to be some of the most challenging work I’ve ever done.  At the same time, I’ve loved getting to know some of the people here; there really is something about traveling that gets one of out of their shell.  Coming up next, we have another short 3-page write up due tomorrow, and then a three-day visit to London, our return, and the home stretch of our program: the final paper.

Until the next time, cheers!

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