With my undergraduate degree firmly behind me, I can say with absolute clarity that the greatest thing I gained from university is my female support network. Having only graduated in June, and still living in Cambridge, I am sometimes tempted to revisit my favourite college habits. One evening I found myself back in the college chapel with a few friends, listening to some live music. As talented as the performers were, I became immediately aware of a group of girls, lying on some bean bags, relaxing and laughing together. Their closeness and comfort around one another made me acutely aware that my university experience had been defined, elevated and promoted by the women I befriended.
I was lucky with the women I met at university. My best friends and I were placed in the same staircase, something I will forever thank our housing officer for. We were all incredibly different. In our style, our academic interests, our experiences. For some reason though, we all seemed to click. By week two we were getting ready together, confiding in one another about things we’d left back at home and about our inevitable insecurities at entering this new world of Cambridge.
We would spend hours with each other in a bedroom, sharing tea, biscuits and the latest snippets of our university experience. Of course, we did the ‘big’ things too. We went to May Balls together, we watched each other graduate, went out for dinner, celebrated and made speeches at one another’s 21st birthdays. However, for me the strength of female friendship is best encapsulated by those hours busy doing nothing with one another. Lying on the bed, watching clips of Beyoncé, complaining about our workloads and sharing our small, everyday achievements. The highlight of a night out was not the sweaty dancing at Cindy’s but the hours early in the morning when we’d come back, dissect the night’s events, overanalyse our emotions about our now cold cheesy chips and garlic mayonnaise.
When I went on my first date I had these girls around me, doing my makeup, my hair, styling my outfit. Rather embarrassingly, we also rehearsed exactly how I would greet the guy. With the same rigour as any sports coach, they tried to teach me how to give a hug and a kiss on a cheek without either giggling or accidentally head-butting them in the process. One friend even had to push me out the door when my nerves got the better of me. They also stayed up that evening, gathered in one room to hear how it went. They’d already poured me a camomile tea and had a barrage of questions about how it had gone.
Of course, these are light-hearted events. We have been through difficult times as well. It is at these moments of crises that the women around me have made me realise that friendship is not transactional. Friends are not there for you because one day you’ll be there for them. My friends have been there for me even when I haven’t deserved it. We have of course argued and disagreed or grown distant. However, there has never been a point in those arguments, even with the anger and intensity of the incident, where I have stopped loving and respecting them. They haven’t missed a Bumps that I’ve rowed in, nor have they complained whenever I talk incessantly about the latest progress of my crew. They’ve also made me develop my own thoughts and interests. Two of my friends are the reason I proudly call myself a feminist, and feel comfortable to assert my place in the lecture room, the boathouse and now, the office.
Your Cambridge experience will be defined by many different facets, but never forget how important those small moments are with the friends you love. It is so easy to take the everyday moments for granted, the small gestures, even someone leaving a glass of water out for you beside your bed when you’ve had one too many tequila shots as a fresher. These quotidian experiences are the tapestry of friendship and love, and they are certainly my fondest memories of being a student.
Cover image sourced from every-passing-moment.blogspot.com