Essay prize key for Caian

  • 14 October 2021

Giving back and sharing experience is a motivation for Maya Beney (History 2019), who has an Anglo-Saxon penny to thank for creating a lasting bond with Gonville & Caius College.

After the then Caius Schools’ Liaison Officer visited Maya’s school in Kent – Newstead Wood School, which is also the alma mater of US Open tennis champion Emma Raducanu – she entered a Year 12 essay prize competition.

She says: “I spent three days researching an Anglo-Saxon penny from the reign of Edward the Elder, which is currently held in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. It was an object biography engaging with material culture, a concept which I hadn’t really come across before. I was happy with what I wrote, and I sent it off the day before the deadline. I enjoyed the research process, but I didn’t expect much to result from the competition.

“After visiting Caius on the open day (in July 2018), I fell in love with the College and knew this was where I wanted to apply regardless of how the competition went. A few weeks later, they sent me an email saying I’d won first prize – I was absolutely shocked!

“Without the Schools’ Liaison Officer coming in I wouldn’t have been aware of the prize, and I may not have applied to Caius.”

Newstead is a link area school for Caius, as part of the University of Cambridge’s access and outreach scheme.

Maya recalls the talk given by the SLO, including mention of the College family system – where students in second year mentor ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ who arrive as freshers – and the essay prize.

She says: “They gave me £300 in cash and £300 in book tokens for my school. I bought a whole bunch of books for my school library and they all have my name in and say ‘winner of the Gonville & Caius essay prize in 2018’ – that’s something I was particularly proud of.”

Now she enjoys helping prospective applicants.

She says: “I just felt I wanted to give something back and it was fun to do. Also when I was a fresher I’d get a lunch token for doing access work – free food!

“I find access work enjoyable because everyone’s enthusiastic about showing that Cambridge – perhaps contrary to stereotypes – is a fun place to be! And I feel so much gratitude to my College for all the opportunities it continues to give me. Seeing students impacted by Caius’s access work in the same way that I was makes me very happy.’’

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