As the summer rolls on, I’ve started to think about my place in life. Maybe this is a symptom of being a recent graduate, and seeing how young all the freshers are (is it cool to be 21?)
More likely, it’s because I’m entering a strange limbo — to quote Blazin’ Squad, at the crossroads. I have just graduated, but will be returning in October as a post-grad student to the same college — a fresh start in an old setting.
This is my summer truth: I’ve been bored, broke and alone for two months. The summer vacation crept up on me and before I knew it, I was about to spend ten weeks at my parent’s new home, in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, with practically no money to speak of. Now, as September approaches and I prepare to move into an attic room in Cambridge and softly weep into a copy of The Canterbury Tales, I feel happier and more like myself than I can ever remember being.
The anticipation of seeing my home friends morphed into disappointment when one by one they told me they had fully-booked summers. There was nothing to distract me from the inevitable spam of people pretending not to hate their lives which Instagram relentlessly seems to regurgitate at this time of year. The initial weeks of my boredom were not only frustrating, but painful, as I was suddenly confronted with the strained family dynamic I had been avoiding all year. Living at home for three months with your parents when your views on every topic known to man are at odds with each other means that the safest mode of conversation is small talk. It killed me to sit through dinner-table discussions about groceries, the weather and the never-ending saga of my extended family. I became so under stimulated that I started reading for my dissertation as a means of diversion – and that is perhaps the most worrying indication of my mental state.
Cambridge theatrical communities are well-represented at the Edinburgh Fringe every year. This year there are about 25 shows from current or recently graduated Cambridge students at the Fringe, and countless others from alumni. And they are in good company. Alongside those performers sent from Fen to Firth each year we are joined by Oxford, Bristol, Durham, London, Exeter, Leeds and many other high-achieving universities. Despite any diversity within university communities, a large portion of shows at the Fringe are either all-male or male-dominated.
Walking down The Royal Mile a flyer was thrust toward me saying “All-male acapella group – you look like you’d love it, ladies!”
As we walked away, I thought “why all-male?” Male performance is hardly a unique selling point here at the Fringe. A performer in this year’s Footlights Tour Show, Ania Magliano-Wright pointed out to me that the finalists of the Chortle Student Comedy Award were exclusively male, accompanied by a male compère. The final took place here at the Fringe, and in the website review of the event, there was no mention of the lack of female and non-binary representation. It’s as if it is taken for granted that comedy is a male space. As the make-or-break platform for comedy in the UK and arguably worldwide, it suffers a remarkable lack of diversity.
Whether you’ve been exploring far flung places, lounging on the beach, cutting your teeth at an internship or just soaking up some post-term calm and recalibrating, we want to hear your summer stories.
Now accepting articles, fiction, art and photography, please email email@example.com with a brief introduction to your ideas – we can’t wait to hear from you!
Cambridge Girl Talk are looking for a group of enthusiastic self-identifying women to form our 2017-18 committee. Positions include Events Director (x2) Sponsorship Organiser, Social Media Co-ordinator, Blog Editor and Head of Visual. Please send a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org introducing yourself, stating which role you are interested in and why before 25th June.
This week on ‘Grad Talk’ we’re chatting to Leaf Arbuthnot, who graduated from Magdalene in 2014 with a degree in French and Italian. Now a feature writer for the Sunday Times, here she discusses her life as a journalist, the perks of internships and why it’s ok if you don’t land your dream job as soon as you graduate.
Interview by Kitty Grady
So, what do you do now?
I’m a feature writer for the Sunday Times. I write interviews mostly but also general features, book reviews and occasional news pieces. I do new poetry collection reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and have written a novel, which has just won the Pageturner Prize and will (touch wood) be published next year. I’m about to start a book review show on Talk Radio and I do news shows for them quite regularly, running through the day’s top trending stories.
… and how did you get there?
I spent lots of my summers since I started at Cambridge interning in different newspapers and magazines to work out what sort of work environments I vibed with most. That was helpful in that it narrowed my options down – I realized I liked newspapers most of all, and wouldn’t thrive in monthly women’s magazines which have more languorous deadlines.
In terms of practical journalistic experience I did quite a bit at Cambridge – The Tab, the Cambridge Globalist, my own College’s magazine which I co-edited. I spent my year abroad at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and wrote art exhibition reviews for a paper there.
I guess I tried to study hard enough to maintain decent grades while at Cambridge, which was instrumental in helping me to win the Henry Fellowship in my final year. It’s a scholarship that supports students who want to do a year at Harvard or Yale. At Yale I did some teaching, a broad range of classes and worked on its newspapers – focusing more on economics and making podcasts. After Yale I interned at the Financial Times then got a job at the Sunday Times, where I’ve been since August 2015.
The spotlight of this week’s instalment of Grad Talk is on Rhian Williams, who graduated from Jesus in 2016 with a degree in French and Spanish. Uniting her love of food and writing, Rhian started a blog in her final year of Cambridge which she now continues to work on post-Uni. Here she tells us about life without a 9-5, her entrepreneurial aspirations and what she’s learned about getting internships.
Interview by Kitty Grady
So, what do you do now?
I graduated less than a year ago, but I’ve already done lots of different things since then. I’ve worked at a local café, a healthy baby food start-up (which included a couple of days working in their factory in Wales), and I’ve also done some freelance writing. I left a job a few weeks ago, and am currently looking for something else, working on my food blog (www.rhiansrecipes.com) in the meantime.
Describe a typical day.
I’ll usually cook something during the day as I tend to test out at least a few recipes per week. I’ve recently started to work more on my food styling and photography, and taking decent photos takes quite a lot of time! In the evenings, I usually write blog posts, do blog-related admin like scheduling social media, as well as working on articles for the freelance writing I do.