Cambridge, the place where we all had some of the hardest times but we will miss it forever

Before we could even really realise it, we have been celebrating having finished half of our studies. Since then, apparently even less time has passed. I have graduated a few days ago and almost immediately started an internship in a science institute near Vienna, IST Austria. It is a part of my planned round of internships at different places around the world which will, I hope, help me decide during the next year where is my place for a PhD. How do I think about my decision to study at Cambridge now?

A long time ago, it was harder to accept the Cambridge offer than one might think. I really wanted to study there but a step into unknown, the fear of my parents turning into bans, tuition fee debts and regular uprooting from my close friends group were great challenges. In the end it helped to imagine that if I threw a coin which would decide to stay at home for me, I would be disappointed. I should have done it. It was one of the best decisions. I will never get to know how much I have lost and missed here at home but I know that Cambridge had a lot of positive changes for me.

Since the first term already, I have been fascinated by Cambridge. I would not believe before that such a place exists which celebrates thinking and discussion that much and where everyone is at least a little enthusiastic for their subjects even though not all plan to work in the field later. Above all, however, Cambridge has given me the chance to look outside of our Czech boubble and think more globally. The world of science is very globalised, many scientists are to some extent nomads (which also brings a lot of personal issues) and the students in developed countries don´t usually stay at the same institution for the whole of their studies and academic career. International internships have gradually become a common part of life for me. My friends at home think about them only from the first year of their masters studies and think that it is impossible to get there even if they are the top of their university. The opposite is true and the internships are very beneficial practical experience for further work (including science) or further study.

My thinking about the future study and life has shifted in the same direction. Before, Cambridge the Great Britain was, not only for my parents but also for me the most distant place where I would go to study without fear. The foremost reason was that in the Czech Republic, I have got into a group of fantastic people which are a huge inspiration for me and we understand each other well (before then I was quite asocial). Now I know that even through the character of relationship changes with long term leaves, the real friends will remain and I am always surprised how little I have missed at home. This, together with the quality of education and foremost the experience with international and travelling culture, opens me much wider opportunities than I would consider three years ago. They essentially include the majority of the world.

At a formal dinner one arts professor said a phrase “Would is your oyster”. He has summarised that the studies at such a university as Cambridge not only open doors but also open the eyes so that we could see all the opportunities. Despite that many students speed up the decision and apply straight to their home institution and specialisation as before their PhD course. I have decided to invest some time into exploration of all the opportunities which I wouldn´t find realistic before.

Before Cambridge I have been a little afraid that it would change me. Quite quickly I have realised that it is not something bad because there is always infinite scope for improvement. But most importantly, I will be changing in a way which I will consider the right one independent of what my younger me would think about it. Because of that I have become a European with two homes. I am much more interested in global politics (and unfortunately currently I am a bit disappointed how is socio-political situation developing in both of my homes). I agree that the current version of globalisation is beneficial only for a part of human population. Nevertheless, the international experience has made me even bigger (although perhaps less naive) dreamer about the ideals of equality, getting to know other cultures and tolerance as well as liberty and freedom of movement which are essential parts of my life and future plans.  

It is evident that the main thing I have got, similarly to many classmates, by studying abroad is not the amount of factual knowledge or hours in the lab. (Some claim that for example the same neurobiology textbook is covered in a third of Cambridge second year of Natural Sciences while in other universities it takes the whole neurobiology course. Of course, however, we just don´t miraculously know that many more facts and that much better). The main benefit for me was a different way of thinking , the ability to independently think and discuss, write essays, reviews and project reports with opinion and learning to live I the global world. When people ask me what is Cambridge like, I usually say “intense”. It´s extended form, for me, is the well-known “work hard-play hard”. The boredom is non-existing at Cambridge and despite the high tiredness and psychological pressure are also normal there, we have agreed with my classmates that after a short break we will really miss Cambridge.


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