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Year 11 students at Ashington High School visit St John's

An article written by Year 11 students at Ashington High School, Northumberland about their visit to Cambridge in September 2013:

On Wednesday 18th September, a group of year 11 students departed from Morpeth train station to Cambridge University via Newcastle and Peterborough. After a walk up to the centre of the city, we eventually arrived at St John's College accompanied by two senior members of staff and stayed for one night in student accommodation. Cambridge University is part of the Russell Group which includes a wide range of the top universities.  The probability of getting a higher paid job is greater if you attend one of the Russell Group Universities. Cambridge is different from most of the others as it is made up of separate colleges.

During our stay at Cambridge we spent a superfluous amount of time engaging in a traditional past time called punting. Luckily for us, nobody managed to fall into the water despite prizes being available. Whilst we were enjoying our afternoon one of our boats had an altercation with a tree with rather low branches and got stuck, requiring the powers of our teacher, Mr Dower (‘Super Dower’), and his punting prowess.  Our stay at Cambridge was catered for by 'The Buttery', which is St John's primary food source. St John's College really was something else; the beautiful and meticulous architecture of the buildings and chapel was breath-taking and induced a desire to attend.

On our stay we occupied various student rooms overnight, giving us a good taste of what was to come in the near future. The rooms were minimalist in style but had all of the essentials and more than enough space to be comfortable. As you would expect, a city like Cambridge is extremely beautiful and does not only house St John's College but an array of twenty nine separate colleges including King's College and Trinity College. The atmosphere of the whole city is very warm and inviting. You feel a sense of belonging as you wander through the cobbled streets visiting the small boutiques and tat shops.

After the fun we had punting during the afternoon of Wednesday, we had high expectations of the next day. When everyone was awake, we ate a fabulous cooked breakfast in The Buttery.  After breakfast we travelled across to the Divinity School to contemplate our futures. Carly, the organiser of our trip gave us a very interesting overview of life as a student at Cambridge and other universities of The Russell Group.

Tips were given about accommodation and how to choose between the several different colleges and the courses available. As well as this, we met a foreign languages student called Katie, who is in her fourth year of studying French and Spanish. She had recently returned from a year trip to Brittany and happily satisfied our curiosity by answering all of our questions. And so, after a day of being completely flabbergasted with information it was safe to say everyone was ready for a good old shop!

The general consensus of the group was that we thought very highly of Cambridge University and some of the group are now considering applying to Cambridge in the near future. One student described the area as 'majestic' saying that 'the university seemed to have a great sense of community'.  We had arrived with stereotypical expectations of what the students would be like. When we pictured an applicant of Cambridge, we thought of someone who had been previously educated in a private school or someone described as 'posh'. We all now realise that anyone is able to attend and succeed there, irrespective of background.

There are many courses available to students at Cambridge University; like Maths, English and even rather unique subjects like Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.  Students can get funding to travel to other countries and experience studying and working abroad. On top of the courses available, students can also get involved in fantastic society clubs which could include punting (which we would all recommend, despite the initial horror expressed by some at the thought of being on water), sports, music and drama. These societies present a socialising opportunity for most students and are there to be taken advantage of.

To conclude, we have decided that Cambridge University is worth the time and consideration of anyone, no matter where you come from. And to paraphrase Mr Dower, 'It doesn't matter where you come from - you just need to push yourself to reach your full potential'. Thanks for your fantastic words of wisdom, Mr Dower.

Feedback from the students about the visit:

'I have learned that it [Cambridge] is open to anyone who is enthusiastic about a subject and who will work to achieve the grades needed.’

‘The best part of the trip for me was definitely experiencing living in student accommodation for the night and experiencing the fun of punting on the river.’

‘After this visit I have been thinking a lot about my grades and I am now even more dedicated to achieve my goals and target grades in my GCSE and in my A levels too.’

‘Before the visit I thought I would never be able to attend a university as prestigious as Cambridge because I thought I wouldn’t fit in but I now believe that if I want to go to Cambridge I can.’

‘I found being able to talk to Carly and Katie about attending the university, the courses available at Cambridge and life as a student was very informative and I learned a lot from them about what to expect when I attend university.’

‘After visiting Cambridge University, I am more determined to do well in my exams and progress onto University.’

‘The talk with Carly on Thursday was very helpful as she did not exclusively talk about Cambridge, but of other Russell Group Universities too. I found myself getting a clearer idea of how to manage finances and how to apply.’

‘The trip to Cambridge has removed any stereotypes I had imagined for the university, and has changed my perceptions on the people who go there.’

‘The timing of the visit was perfect for me as it has motivated me to study hard for my exams to try and get into Cambridge. Previously, I had thought that only privately educated students could get into Cambridge, but now I realise that with the right dedication and hard work, anyone can achieve it.’

‘For me, Cambridge always seemed like the unattainable option when it came to universities as I didn't see past the preconceived misconceptions that surround the reputation of Cambridge University.’

‘Before going on the trip to Cambridge University I didn't really know what sort of direction I wanted to go in.  I didn't even know if I wanted to go to university any more, and a top one like Cambridge seemed out of the question. However, it broke down some barriers that I had put up, making me a lot more confident and even exited by the possibility of getting into a good university.’

‘The whole of Cambridge as well as St John's College has inspired me to go as I fell in love with the whole experience! I am now looking onto doing my A Levels including German which could mean, if I get the grades, going onto Cambridge University to study Languages!’

‘It has made me reconsider going to Cambridge as none of the stereotypes were true. Absolutely fantastic!’

‘From this visit to Cambridge I have gained the confidence to go to a Russell Group University that is further away from home.’ 

‘I have discovered that moving away from home for further education may not be as frightening as I first thought it would be because the people who attend universities, even the ones in the south of the country, will all be 'normal'. I think it's important for other students to find this out.’