Are you curious to see what it’s like to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge?
In this series we ask current and past students to share what life is like studying at their universities. Leah gives us an insight into reading Natural Sciences at Cambridge.
What Is It Like Studying At Clare College, Cambridge?
Clare has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most relaxed Cambridge colleges, which I can certainly vouch for. It’s also renowned for its beautiful gardens and music, and one of our alumni is David Attenborough, which is pretty cool!
What is Natural Sciences at Cambridge like?
The Natural Sciences course at Cambridge is broadly split into two disciplines: the biological and physical sciences. Although most people fall into one of the two categories, the beauty of the course is that it provides you with the freedom to choose a range of modules from both disciplines. This is great because you can easily find where your interests lie, and it also helps you appreciate the interconnected nature of present day science.
There’s no two ways about it, the course is definitely intense and challenging at times, and the workload is likely to be higher than what you are used to. However having said that, if you genuinely enjoy your subjects, then this shouldn’t be a massive issue! And you definitely still have plenty of time for socialising, sport, music etc., as long as you manage your time well. There’s more to university than just your course! You will also have lectures on a Saturday morning, but honestly they’re not that bad!
The Morning: Life As A Cambridge Natural Sciences Student
On a normal day I’d probably wake up at around 8am, have some breakfast, get ready, pack my bag for the day, and, (if I had time), briefly read through the lecture notes for that day.
I’d then cycle to my lectures for the day. Luckily since Clare is such a central college, this only took at most 10 minutes! I’d normally have two lectures per day, each 1 hour, and these would either be finished by late morning or 1pm depending on the day.
The Afternoon: Life As A Cambridge Natural Sciences Student
I would then grab some lunch, normally from a café in town, or if I had time the college canteen (called the Buttery), which is a great place to socialise and relax after with others in your college!
As a Natsci (student studying Natural Sciences) you will also have practicals to go to in the afternoon. On some days you won’t have a practical though, in which case you would be done for the day in terms of contact hours. Practicals last between 2-5 hours, depending on the module, the task, and how efficient you are at working. On most days I had a practical I would normally be done by around 3/4pm though.
Once I was finished with lectures and practicals I would then cycle back to college and normally have a hot drink and a snack and relax for a while.
If I had a supervision* that day, I would go to that, before then having some dinner. I would either make this myself or have a meal in the Buttery depending on if I liked anything on the menu that day! What I didn’t realise was that because many Natsci supervisions are in the evening (at least mine were) you do end up missing the time slot for dinner in the Buttery quite a lot (6-7pm), and so on most days I would end up cooking for myself. If you like cooking then this isn’t an issue, but if you’re slightly lazy like me, and your culinary skills are limited, then it can be quite annoying! Nevertheless, it does help you learn how to cook!
* (Supervisions are just small group teaching sessions with an academic, expert in their field, that last 1 hour. As a Natsci in first year you will have 4 per week, one for each of your modules, and they usually take place late afternoon/evening, although some may be earlier. For more information on how you’ll be taught at Cambridge).
The Evening: Life As A Cambridge Natural Sciences Student
After dinner, my schedule would vary significantly day by day. On some days I would do 1-2 hours of work, either going over the topics covered in the lectures that day, and jotting down any questions I had or doing work set by my supervisor. I would normally be done by no later than 9pm though. On other days I would just socialise, relax and chat to my friends. Often we would end up talking quite late into the night!
Sometimes we would go the college bar, called Cellars, which is actually underground and is definitely one of the best college bars in Cambridge! Other times we would go out clubbing. I play tennis so some days I would go to tennis training.
So in short, my evenings were pretty varied to say the least!
What Are Your Top Tips For Studying Natural Sciences At Cambridge?
Leah’s Final Words On Cambridge Life
I hope you’ve gained a greater insight into life at Cambridge and in particular the Natural Sciences course. Personally I absolutely love Cambridge, the city and the uni have so much more to offer beyond just academics!
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