RUTHANNE SOH (Land Economy)
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Hi! I'm Ruthanne, I'm a second year land economist (aka land ec) from sunny Singapore!
What do you study in Land Economics and what is your favourite part?
I'd say land ec is probably one of the more misunderstood degrees in Cambridge! Contrary to popular belief, we don't study agriculture or farming – in fact it's a really interesting interdisciplinary course that offers us the chance to examine issues from a range of angles: economic, environmental, policy and legal in nature. Just to give a taste, this year I'm taking five papers which broadly cover the following topics: 1) environmental economics and law 2) real estate investment and finance 3) regional economics and policy 4) tort and contract law 5) urban economics and policy.
My favourite part about the course is definitely the diversity it offers and also being able to observe concepts that I study in real life behaviour and policy decisions!
What is it like moving to study in the UK?
Overall it definitely has not been easy – this was my first time really leaving home and living on my own and it's really compounded by the fact that home is a 13h flight away. The homesickness comes in bouts and usually gets worse when something stressful approaches. But I'd say the worst bit about moving here besides being away from family is being away from all the delicious Singaporean food!!! Not joking if you enjoy spicy food I highly recommend making a trip over.
You'll probably think I'm mad but to me, the best plus is definitely the weather and having seasons! I love singapore, but with temperatures above 30oC most days of the year, combined with the humidity that makes you sweat buckets just stepping out of the house, not even a little English rain can stop me from enjoying the cooler temperatures. Coming in a close second is the chance to really understand other cultures. It never fails to amaze me how different cultures go about handling similar situations and I love observing how particularly the nuances in language develop because of these cultural differences.
What do you do in your free time and how did you get into it?
Well it depends on how you define free time! For when I'm not studying, I joined the Cambridge University Kickboxing Society (CUKBS) this year and I've been hooked ever since! I was a complete beginner but the team and the coaches were so lovely and patient in helping me to improve – it's a really wonderful environment. It's also a really good stress reliever since you basically get the licence to hulk out and punch and kick something (or someone) multiple times a week!
Other than that I learn French at the language centre, get involved in bits and bobs around the Uni and try to maintain a semblance of a social life but that really depends on how much energy I have left in the tank.
PEMI AROWOJOLU (Human, Social and Political Sciences)
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi! I am Pemi, a first year HSPS student. I am 19 years old and from North London. I am passionate about Politics and voicing the opinions of young people in order to bring about positive change. I aim to do a law conversion and hopefully become a qualified solicitor in the future.
What do you in Cambridge apart from HSPS?
I am the Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer at Selwyn College, a role I have thoroughly enjoyed so far, and took over from my College mum. One of my main goals this year on the JCR is to launch the “Selwyn Hidden Figures” project which aims to promote BME excellence by looking through archives to find other Ethnic Minority students who have been at Selwyn and interview them. (Current students can email me if you are interested in being an interviewer firstname.lastname@example.org)
The other main role I have is my role as the Access and Careers Officer for the Cambridge University African Caribbean Society. Over the past week you may have seen some of our members on BBC news, Channel 4 and various other articles. This has been so exciting, shout out to the amazing team I work with in ACS!!!
What are you doing to help increase BME applications?
In my role as Access and Careers Officer, I plan to work with the ACS team to deliver a mentorship scheme for potential students from an African Caribbean background to support their application to Cambridge. I also plan on holding a Careers event next year with speakers from a wide range of career backgrounds and predominantly from an African and Caribbean background. In my second year, I hope to be more involved in singing groups, and do some acting, which are passions of mine I have not yet explored in my first year!
What do you think Selwyn can do to help with your BME access work?
I think Selwyn should continue to do amazing access schemes for people from a wide range of backgrounds to encourage them to apply. I also think the “Selwyn Hidden Figures” project will be a great way to promote BME excellence in Selwyn College.
SERENA MACMILLAN (Biological Natural Sciences)
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Serena, a second year Bio Natsci (Biological Natural Sciences) from Lancaster studying Earth Sciences, Biochemistry and Cell and Developmental Biology.
What is your favourite thing about Selwyn?
Selwyn is such a lovely community and everyone is just so friendly. I know it can sound a bit of a cliche but I genuinely think that we have some of the nicest people in Cambridge and it really helps make the experience of being at University that much better. From all living in the same accommodation building in first year, you really get to know everyone regardless of your course or hobbies.
How does your experience at Selwyn compare to your expectations before arriving?
I was very nervous (as I feel most people probably are!) about coming to University and I had no real understanding of how colleges worked. I remember thinking that it might feel really exclusive or clique-y, but in hindsight that was completely wrong. I made great friends in my first term but made more throughout the rest of the year so on reflection I shouldn’t have been worried about trying to find where I fitted in immediately. While Selwyn is a tight knit community, it is by no means suffocating or exclusive like I thought it might be. Instead is the perfect size to know everyone by name without feeling stifled.
Aside from studying, what else do you do in Cambridge?
I really enjoy being involved with performing arts in Cambridge, in particular working in theatre, and I find time to balance my work with having a great time with friends.
What has been your best experience at Selwyn so far?
My best experience so far at Selwyn was probably the May Ball after exams. It was such a great night to spend with friends celebrating the end of a stressful term and I have so many lovely memories!
EDSON OWUSU-AFRIYIE (History)
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Edson and I’m a first year history student at Selwyn. My parents are from Ghana and I was born in London but moved to Kettering, Northamptonshire, which is where I grew up and went to school. It’s the second biggest town in the county, and our local Member of Parliament described it as ‘Britain’s most average town’ when asking Theresa May to visit, which in itself hardly constitutes a ringing endorsement.
How has your first term at Cambridge been?
It’s gone very quickly! But I’ve enjoyed it a lot, even though it’s been quite challenging at times. Getting to grips with having a turnaround of days rather than weeks for 3000 word essays was initially a difficult adjustment to make. My degree aside, I became a member of the Cambridge Union, where I’ve attended fascinating talks by figures such as the President of Ghana, who discussed the importance of democracy in facilitating development, and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s infamously outspoken former Director of Communications. Being part of BME People of Selwyn has allowed me to engage with diverse cultures and get involved in cool events such as pizza nights On weekends I’ve played for the Selwyn football team, where I’ve met some great people in other years of the college. The people on my floor in Cripps Court (a part of Selwyn accommodation) are also all very friendly, which has made it a lot easier to settle in.
What has been most surprising about Cambridge?
There’s a lot to choose from, but one thing for me, coming from a place where hardly anyone cycles, is how bike-orientated Cambridge is as a city. Having to factor in up to five minutes for trying to find a space to lock up my bike when cycling somewhere isn’t something I’d anticipated!
What are you looking forward to doing over the vacation?
A very cliche answer, but I am very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, and sleeping for more than seven hours!
OLIVER BLACK (Computer Science)
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, I’m Oliver and I’m a second year student studying Computer Science.
I’m from a little village called Fowlmere, just south of Cambridge. I’m also Selwyn’s JCR Computing Officer (do get in touch if you have any computer problems), and I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese (a fact I mention a bit too much).
What is it like studying Computer Science at Selwyn?
There are only two Computer Scientists a year at Selwyn. This is fantastic because it forces you to make friends outside of your subject, so your conversations end up being much more diverse, and you can learn a lot about subjects you wouldn’t think you’d be interested in. Much as I really enjoy my subject, it would be suffocating to just talk about computers and maths all day.
Apart from your course, what other things do you do at Cambridge?
As the Computing Officer I talked to College about the fact that many students were unhappy with the internet allowance they received, and actually managed to get it increased. We’ve all seen school councils before, but at university, being on the JCR committee, you can actually make a real difference. This is especially the case at colleges like Selwyn which let students into the rooms where decisions are made – I’ve been on the College IT Committee for the past year. In a more fun and less serious role, I’m the secretary of the Association of British And Chinese Students (ABACUS), which hold loads of fun events (including a boat party on the Thames). It is extremely fulfilling to get involved with a society you enjoy, and I would highly recommend it. It’s also a great escape from work, and a way to make friends. I do also row, because the early mornings and exercise give you a break from work, and really set you up for a productive day.
How do you manage your work with everything else going on?
I try my best to avoid working ‘too’ hard, but also try and work efficiently. Whenever I sit down to do some work, I normally have an idea of how much/what I want to do, and I try not to get distracted until I’ve done it. Also, if I ever think I’m not making much progress, or I’m just not feeling great, I just stop working, go do something else, and then come back in an hour/the next day, with a fresh mind and motivation.
ELLA GODFREY (English)
Tell us about yourself (course, year, hometown etc)
Hey, I’m Ella! I’m a third year English student from just outside Birmingham.
What do you enjoy doing in Cambridge apart from your English degree?
I’m one of those English students who is obsessed with theatre – I guess it’s a stereotype for a reason! I mostly write and direct comic plays with a friend (and fellow Selwynite!), although I’ve had the opportunity to try out various other roles along the way. I’m also the Vice President of ‘The Mighty Players’, Selwyn’s very own drama society! Each term we put on at least one play in Selwyn and organise comedy bar nights, as well as funding hows at other venues. The Cambridge theatre scene is incredibly diverse and exciting with roughly 10 productions each week! This means there are always opportunities to get involved both on and offstage, plus there’s no shortage of high quality shows to go and watch.
Which show are you most proud of?
I was lucky enough to be able to take a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer which was difficult, tiring but ultimately exhilarating. ‘Bad Habits’ was a light-hearted farce about nuns, sex and scandal, a.k.a. the Megabus origin story… For 2 weeks the cast and crew spent every morning out flyering and every afternoon making an audience cry with laughter. Together we created a fantastic show and had tremendous fun doing it- what could be better?
As I write, our most recent comedy ‘Shot in the Dark’ is about to open on Tuesday (31st)! It’s a silly 1950s spy-based farce full of secrets, soviets and… Spam?! I’m so proud of the work our ridiculously talented cast and crew have put into it – It might even be our best show yet!
How does studying English and doing theatre/writing influence one another?
The Selwyn English fellows are really good at allowing us to follow our individual interests when it comes to what we study. As such, I’ve often been able to focus on drama and have discovered lots of writers whom I really admire (that is, want to steal from!) They say that good writers read a lot; that’s certainly true of English students. Although balancing work and theatre can be a challenge at times, churning out an essay every week has taught me not to worry about my writing being ‘perfect’ – sometimes the most important thing is just getting ideas down on paper.