'The real heart of Cambridge is the people'

  • 04 November 2021

Carenza Price (History and Politics 2020) is from Stafford in the West Midlands. She attended King Edward VI High School, Stafford and wanted to study Government and Politics at A-Level, necessitating a move to City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College. Here she writes about her experience of studying at Gonville & Caius College.

History was the first thing I fell in love with. Horrible Histories was a massive influence – as it is for a lot of my generation – and I read all the books and watched the TV shows. We didn’t talk politics as a household, but the news was always on, so I was always surrounded by it. I pursued it at 16 when I got the chance to do politics at A-Level, and that’s where my interest really solidified. It was always about the two together; I didn’t consider doing a single honours degree.

I knew about Cambridge almost as a drama school, because all my favourite actors and comedians had gone to Cambridge. But I hadn’t thought about coming here until a trip in year 9 planted a seed in the back of my brain.

My form tutor was pushing for a Cambridge trip and we piggy backed on to a year 12 Economics Open Day at Sidney Sussex – the link college for the West Midlands. I don’t remember the economics, but I remember meeting a Director of Studies and going punting. It had been raining all day and then it was sunny when we were on the river. It was beautiful.

When it came to choosing a sixth form college, Stoke talked about their high achievers programme and Oxbridge. That reignited my memory.

I chose Caius after coming on the open day in July 2019. I stumbled in because I saw the door was open and they were giving out tote bags. It was a beautiful sunny day and I had a wander round. By chance I immediately bumped into someone who was doing History and Politics and talked to him. He was really enthusiastic about his degree. I then met the Directors of Studies for History and Politics and I was sold by that. They were really interesting and engaging, both personally and on the subjects. It was a nice fit straight away.

It’s really nice to be living and working in such a beautiful place, and I could see how the grand architecture and environment could be intimidating, but I just saw it as pretty buildings, not representing something wider. It’s the people, not buildings, who make a university or college. The real heart of Cambridge and what you want to get involved in and be part of is the student body and staff body and the people. You can find people that you relate to on multiple levels. You may have similar backgrounds or you can find stuff in common with people with very different backgrounds. The Cambridge stereotype now is very outdated. Every single person is an individual and different.

I really benefitted from access programmes and speaking to access ambassadors on open days and in a masterclass. It was the inter-personal conversations where you get much more of a feel for the reality. Those chats helped to settle my nerves, showed me I wanted to come here, could be academically challenged and have a good time. It broke down anxieties. Now I want to try to help others as much as I can, and that’s why I’m a Caius access ambassador.

I had questions about social life and balancing work and fun before coming here, and I get asked the same question. You start with your work and fit your social life around it; at other unis it might be the other way round. It’s about time management.

Covid affected my first year, but now I’m looking forward to embracing the opportunities. I’m keen to get into theatre and enjoy the social scene. I knew there was quite a big LGBT scene at Cambridge and it was very diverse. I went to a Covid-safe form of Glitterbomb, the LGBT regular club night, in my first year and I’ve now experienced it without restrictions. It’s a really fun way to bring everyone together and a really important safe space for us. People at various stages of their coming out journeys are all together in the community. It’s brilliant.

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