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15. November 2017 Jakub Příbaň

How many Cambridge professors does it take to change a lightbulb?

Although the stereotype that Cambridge is exclusively for the posh, rich and famous is nowadays just that - a mere stereotype - its deeply rooted history of such demographics has left an immutable imprint on the culture here.

I find that this is quite accurately summarised with a joke told to us by the professor in one of our first Foundations of Computer Science lectures: “How many Cambridge professors does it take to change a light bulb?”
“What? Change? Who said anything about change? We’ve been doing this for over 500 years!”

Often these Cambridge traditions exist for the sole reason that they exist and show no mercy whatsoever to incoming freshers. The naiive over-enthusiasm, with which we moved in, ready for Freshers’ Week, was rapidly rectified upon discovery that Freshers’ Week is not so much a week, but rather 4 days. This is because (surprise!) Cambridge weeks start on Thursdays. Well surely that is preposterous and completely defeats the logic in the name given to weekends, as they’re supposed to occur at the end of the week. But yet again, Cambridge is ten steps ahead of you and kindly takes care of that by removing the notion of weekends entirely. 9am Saturday lectures and 4pm Sunday deadlines for supervision work exist to prevent complacency.

On the other hand, there are also social traditions, which the student body is more than happy to proudly uphold, namely the college parent system. Incoming freshers are each assigned to a ‘college family’, with one or two other freshers as siblings, and second year students as parents. The idea is to make settling in easier, as the parents can give quite helpful information about the college, the subject (one parent usually reads the same subject as one of the children), and they provide a social gateway to the already formed friendship groups of second and third year students.

As the parent system is to some extent randomised, getting college parents can be a bit of hit and miss, but personally I think I've been blessed with as good a college family I could have hoped for. Once I recovered from the slight initial cultural shock, I acclimtised and adopted these various Cambridge oddities quite quickly. Although the workload does live up to its reputation, and time management must indeed be executed flawlessly in order to not fall behind, I honestly believe I could not have ended up in a better place to study Computer Science, than Jesus College Cambridge.

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