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Gavin Bennison

Background: A levels in Geography, French, Government & Politics and Maths (Wilmslow High School – state comprehensive).

Hometown: Wilmslow, Cheshire

'Studying at St John’s has been the most rewarding, exciting and intellectually challenging experience of my life. It has taken me in directions which I did not anticipate when I applied to study at Cambridge, and has profoundly shaped my world view and academic interests.

I applied to read Geography because of the subject’s unparalleled contemporary relevance. I was deeply interested in issues of social justice, development and sustainability, and wanted to understand how and why societies, economies and environments are characterised by such diversity and inequality. The incredible breadth of the Cambridge Geography Tripos, particularly the equal mix of human and physical geography in the first year, allowed me to tackle these and many other issues by applying the uniquely holistic intellectual perspective which a geography degree helps you to develop. The topics of my weekly essays were eclectic, ranging from explaining the periodic oscillations between glacial and interglacial climatic periods to analysing the economic geographies of the global financial crisis, and everything in between. Throughout my two years studying geography, the excellent resources of the College library were invaluable in helping me reach my full potential, whilst the extremely sociable community of geographers in College made for a friendly and supportive environment to live and work.

Part way through my second year, I made the decision to switch subjects and to study Law for two years for the remainder of my degree. The opportunity to combine the in-depth study of two subjects sequentially is a unique feature of the Cambridge Tripos system, and one of its great strengths. St John’s were incredibly generous in providing me with funding to attend a summer school in English Law at LSE at the end of my second year; this was extremely helpful in making my transition to studying Law a smooth one, and thanks to incredible teaching and support by the Law Fellows in College I feel that I have quickly found my feet in studying a very different and challenging, but extremely rewarding, academic discipline.

Having originally chosen St John’s in awe of its architecture, grandeur and wonderfully central location, I have come to realise the College is much more than its beautiful exterior. It is a welcoming and inclusive community full of hugely interesting people, Fellows and students alike, motivated by a love of their subject and keen to push the boundaries of intellectual development. The facilities, both academic and pastoral, are second to none, whilst traditions such as gowns and Hall cultivate a sense of pride and belonging which sets Cambridge apart from other, non-collegiate universities. If you are prepared to work hard and embrace the academic and non-academic opportunities open to you, St John’s will reward you with world-class teaching, a depth and breadth of understanding which can’t be matched, and cherished memories of the three (or more) years you spend here. I am still regularly struck by a feeling of how lucky and privileged I am to study at St John’s, and would urge anyone with a love of learning and a willingness to work hard to considering applying.'

- Gavin Bennison, December 2012