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Goodbye My Friends: On Going on a Year Abroad

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

My first-ever supervisor savaged me for starting something I wrote with such a basic quote, but never has a cliché meant so much to so few.

Although this is still only my second year at Cambridge, it already feels like some sort of ending, even if it is just a season finale. So I guess Gary Oldman was right about one thing…

Telling you I haven’t really enjoyed the last few weeks hardly makes for original content, but the thing is, I thought I loved Exam Term. Last year, it was all sunshine, lollipops, coffee shops and consolidated friendships. We watched enough Love Island to get a degree in mugginess, and was it even dinner if it wasn’t outdoors?

To be fair, this year has shaped up to be pretty similar, and yet it isn’t the same with the concept of leaving the country low-key creeping up on you like a midnight coursework deadline.

My Year Abroad begins in August. Having finally been rejected from enough internships to know what I’ll be doing, I can’t wait – and neither, I’m sure, can my Instagram followers.

Besides the fact that Belgian students on Facebook look frighteningly chic, the fear of going to a foreign place doesn’t really affect me. No doubt, I’ll be too busy bringing down Brexit from the inside and eating sweet waffles to end up lonely and homesick.

By the time I make it to Barcelona for the second half, the Big YA will have made me far too artsy, cosmopolitan and downright unconventional for any of those feelings. I’ll know the Catalan word for woke. Either that or I’ll be too wise and world-weary to care.

It isn’t having to say hasta luego to faithful old East Anglia, then, that’s bothering me. It’s having to come back.

It’s knowing these are the final weeks of unfettered uni fun (now exams are done) you’ll have with most of your friends before returning in October 2019 to find them all grown up, already in the outside world. At this point, college regulations will seem more archaic than ever, and obviously the University still won’t have divested, but hey – by then Grudgebridge might be CUSU President.

You, meanwhile, are the Cambridge equivalent of an uncle at a wedding: the infamous Fourth Year. Clumsy, nostalgic, you’re of little interest to most Freshers apart from swapping Gap YA stories and intuiting the relative contact hours of Part IB papers.

I fear these first two years have been the thrilling journey that we will remember and tell our ambivalent grandkids about – and our fourth year will be the never-ending return leg. The longer I have been at Cambridge – particularly now, facing the prospect of living in countries with literally 57.91million strangers combined next year – the more clearly it becomes apparent that the experience of studying here is completely shaped by those with whom you are sharing it. As Glasgow City Council famously declared (about Glasgow), people make Cambridge.

I still don’t feel at home walking through the crusty castles of John’s or Trinity (except nowadays I’m proud of that). I’m still not an expert in New Wave French cinema. I still don’t even know what a Tripos is or what part of speech it constitutes (have I mentioned, I study languages?) However, I have made some first-class friends.

So, if you’d indulge me, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all.

Whether we met the minute I got to Cambridge (during the five-day organisation orgy I like to spell ‘Freshers Weak’) or more recently, in the dying days before I mic-drop to Europe, you have played a bigger part in the Cambridge Experience™ than any little tradition or institution.

If it weren’t for all you lovely people, I’d be thanking god I’m leaving.


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