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Christina Farley - History of Art

'By the time I arrived for the St John’s Open Day in the September before I applied, I was sick of open days, sick of thinking about university, and sick of not knowing where I wanted to go. I had more or less already decided that the day would be pointless – that, when I got home, I’d stick a pin in the prospectus and have done with it. Then, sitting in the admissions talk and hearing about the many extra-curricular activities on offer at John’s, as photos of smiling undergraduates and beautiful rooms flashed across the screen, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the place where I wanted to be, more than anywhere else. For some reason, it just felt right.

But things weren’t that simple; as a student from an average state school, applying for a subject famous for its royal and celebrity alumni, my teachers tried to convince me to ‘play the numbers game’. This meant applying to a College that was smaller, and a lot less grand-seeming than St John’s. But coming to the Open Day, I was told (in no uncertain terms!) that you should base your decision on where you want to go, and not on admission statistics; the Pool system ensures nobody is at a disadvantage if they apply to an oversubscribed College. With the myths that St John’s and History of Art are ‘for posh people only’ thoroughly dispelled, and the diverse backgrounds of students both at the College and on the course in mind, I followed my gut and applied to St John’s. I could not have made a better decision.

Being a History of Art student, it goes without saying that I enjoy looking at beautiful things. In Cambridge, and at St John’s in particular, I am surrounded by them. But more than that; at St John’s, variation is key. Excuse the cliché, but there really is something for everyone. This certainly applies to accommodation: my first year room was in the Cripps Building, a controversial modern masterpiece, and in my second year I inhabit a beautiful gothic ‘wedding-cake’, (it’s not even cold)! Yet variety is also found in College events, and if you can’t find the society you want at College level, it will almost certainly exist in the wider University.

On getting to Cambridge, for perhaps the first time in my life, I discovered it was socially acceptable (even – gasp! – encouraged) to be excited about my subject, and about learning in general. As a result some (but not all) of my extra-curricular activities are art related; I write articles for a student newspaper about art in Cambridge, help to organise graduate seminar series, and as part of the ‘Inspire’ project visit primary schools to teach students about the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collections and life as a Cambridge student. I play the violin and viola in more orchestras than I can count, and I have also been able to get involved in College Access events, helping at the very Open Days which lured me in, back when I was a terrified sixth former. Basically, don’t worry – it gets better. Especially if you pick St John’s!'

- Christina Farley, 2nd Year History of Art, February 2013