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Sipke Shaughnessy – Arch & Anth (HSPS)

Sipke Shaughnessy

'I applied to study Archaeology and Anthropology (before it became part of the HSPS Tripos) at Cambridge from a non-fee paying voluntary school in Bandon, Ireland. I had originally applied to King's but ended up being placed in the summer pool and was selected by St John's instead. I initially felt quite nervous about coming to a college which I had never really considered before and therefore knew nothing about, as well as studying in the UK.

However, St John's has proven to be an incredibly supportive academic environment in which I've been able to pursue a subject which I thoroughly enjoy. The College's first-rate facilities and generous bursaries and funds ensure that students have very little to worry about during their three or four years here, regardless of their background. The student population here is larger than most colleges and very diverse with a wide range of interests, so it's impossible not to make friends.

I'm now in my second year at St John's and have chosen to specialise in Social Anthropology. I had intended to take this option since applying, but I did find it very exciting and useful to receive agrounding in the other two disciplines which make up the Arch and Anth Tripos - Archaeology and Biological Anthropology - in my first year. The HSPS Faculty at Cambridge is undoubtedly one of the best in the world - you will inevitably end up reading several books by some of the people that end up either lecturing or supervising you. The course itself is varied, current and fast-paced but at the same time very comprehensive; you'll always find yourself working on something interesting for supervisions.

If you're convinced by the course, then St John's is a great place to study it and has a long and distinguished history in the subject. The supervisors here are great - all passionate about their subjects and committed to providing students with constructive feedback - and you'll end up getting to meet all kinds of academics; professors, lecturers, PhD students and so on.

I once found myself sitting at dinner with Professor Sir Jack Goody, one of the 20th-century's most well-known anthropologists. Perhaps star-struck is too strong a word, but I certainly felt very privileged.

Outside of academia, St John's has an enormous selection of extra-curricular activities on offer. I row for the First VIII of our very own Lady Margaret Boat Club, and have helped to set up the Cambridge University Russell Society - a university-wide pacifist speaker and discussions group. Even if you can't find something that you're interested in (which is unlikely), it is very easy to set up a society of your own and you can apply for funding from the College to do so.

To conclude, the Human, Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge is one of the best courses of its kind in the world. You are unlikely to have a better time or receive a better education in one of the HSPS subjects anywhere else in Cambridge than at St John's College.'

- Sipke Shaughnessy, 2nd Year Arch & Anth, January 2013