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A typical day in the life of a Cambridge student

Some of you are curious to know how undergraduate students at Cambridge spend their day. Since there are over 12 000 undergraduates, it’s difficult to give a single answer to such a general question! However below I will try to give you an idea of how a typical schedule would look like (before the covid pandemic!). Most of the day is spent between my college and my department (see our previous post for the differences between them).

07:30 – I wake up and have breakfast in my college accomodation. My room is pretty small but functional, and it’s located in the centre of Cambridge, in a building with centuries of history. I am sharing a kitchen with 5 other students who live on the same floor as me. None of us study the same course! I study Engineering, and they study either Medicine, History, Law, or Foreign Languages.

08:30 – I walk to the Department of Engineering, which is just a few blocks away from my college, to attend a morning of lectures. I am planning to arrive a few minutes early to meet and chat with some of my friends before the lectures start.

09:00 until 12:00 – My engineering lectures take place in large lecture theatres, with around 50 to 200 students attending each lecture. Each lecture lasts 55 minutes, and we have 5 minutes to change room (just a short walk away within the same building). Some lecturers use the traditional chalk and blackboard, while others use laptop presentations with a video projector. All lectures take place in the morning, and I usually have two to three hours every day (including Saturdays!)

12:30 – After three hours of lectures and taking notes, I am feeling tired and hungry. I walk back to my college to have lunch in the dining hall, a beautiful historic room where over 100 students can sit and eat together. It is a cafeteria-style lunch in where I meet some of my college friends. Few of them study engineering like me, and it’s nice to talk about something else than engineering for some time.

13:30 – I start getting ready for the supervision (small-group teaching) I will have from 14:00 to 15:00. I had a long sheet of homework to solve for this supervision, and it took me all of Saturday afternoon and evening to do it. A few days ago I sent my work to my supervisor (a senior PhD student in Engineering). Today I will be alone with him and another student to go over the material in detail and help me understand what I struggled with. I’m taking five courses this term, and I have one supervision for each course every two weeks (this means two to three supervisions in total every week).

15:00 – I am done with the supervision and I now need to get some fresh air and physical activity. I will cycle to my weekly practice with the Badminton Club. The sports centre is a 10-minute bicycle ride from my college, which is very convenient.

17:00 – After an exhausting but fun hour of badminton I am cycling with my Badminton Club friends for a social dinner in a pub. Good food, good drinks, and good company!

20:30 – Back to my college room, I have a couple of hours left to study before going to bed. I carefully go over my lecture notes from this morning to make sure that what I wrote makes sense and because I realised that reading before sleeping helps me remember more!

22:30 – Bed time! I’ll need to wake up early again tomorrow. That was a typical day in my student life :-)


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