Skip to main content

Jennifer Griggs – Classics

I have just finished my first year studying Classics at St John’s.

I have really enjoyed studying the Cambridge Classics course. It covers an enormous amount of ground, and has allowed me not only to learn in greater depth about areas of Classics I have studied before, but also to discover lots of new areas within the subject. For instance, despite never having studied linguistics before I arrived, I have written a wide range of linguistics essays this year on subjects from tense and aspect to the sounds of Latin and Greek. Having chosen second year literature modules such as Greek novels and Roman comedy, I am set to continue discovering new areas of Classics next year. Not only do I find the content of the course interesting, but I also like the way in which it is delivered. Supervisions are one of our main forms of learning: they are intense, and preparing adequately for them requires a lot of independent study, but they are unquestionably immensely rewarding. With around three of these a week, as well as four optional translation classes and up to ten lectures, we have quite a lot of contact hours for a humanities subject, which allows us to gain the most we possibly can from the expertise of the teaching staff.

Of all the colleges at Cambridge, I would say that St John’s is one of the best at which to study Classics. Many of the Classics professors and fellows at John’s are leaders in their fields, both within Cambridge (in fact, most of my literature lectures at the faculty next year will be taken by fellows from John’s) and internationally. This means that the quality of supervisions is extremely high. Additionally, all of our fellows are extremely friendly, and organise frequent lunches, drinks gatherings and talks which allow the John’s Classics community to come together on a regular basis. The college Classical Society also runs events; recently, these have included a conversation evening with Tom Holland and a Classics garden party, which I was involved in organising in collaboration with the university-wide Classics Society. Other advantages of studying Classics at John’s include size of intake, which at around five per year is small enough for us to know each other well, but large enough to include a range of different backgrounds and experiences; the library, which is well-stocked on Classical literature, history, philosophy, linguistics and archaeology; and our college grace, which is longer than average and therefore arguably gives us some extra translation practice every time we go to hall.

However, I would also argue that St John’s is still an incredible college no matter what subject you are studying. I could sing its praises for hours – a large and diverse student body, the best May Ball, famously good food (where else could you have ‘baked stilton cheese soufflé with a shot of Guinness’ as a starter?) – but there are three main advantages. Firstly, John’s is extremely generous with scholarships and travel grants: for example, I am going to Sicily over the summer using a travel grant, and a fellow classicist is using a John’s travel grant to visit Naples (as well as going on a John’s-organised cultural exchange programme to Mumbai and a faculty-organised archaeological dig). Secondly, John’s offers an enormous number of extra-curricular opportunities. The college boat club is arguably one of the best in the university, and rowing with it is one of the best decisions I have made since I came to Cambridge. It has given me many memorable experiences, from falling into the Cam (twice) to jumping over a burning boat after our men’s first boat won May Bumps. There is also a lot of music going on in college. I’ve mainly been playing with CUMS, but I do often make use of the college Steinway to practice on and occasionally go to Evensong in chapel. Finally, even if it does mean ending on a rather more superficial note, it’s worth mentioning that St John’s is one of the most beautiful colleges, inside and out (John’s accommodation is certainly one of its best assets) – and I’m not ashamed to say that that was one of the main factors in my choice of college.

 Although I’ve only been studying Classics at John’s for a year, it has already given me many incredible experiences and completely changed the way I work and think. If you’re thinking of studying Classics and/or applying to Cambridge, I would thoroughly recommend Classics at John’s!

- Jennifer Griggs, July 2016