A generation on
This time 30 years ago, I had just left school, and was doing a summer job, to earn a few quid before going up to Cambridge. I remember feeling a bit apprehensive at leaving the familiar behind. That is, until I started the new life at Cambridge. It was a fantastic time: lots of intellectual (and other) stimulation, coupled with a relaxed lifestyle and a great chance to pursue a range of interests (at least, those which don’t cost money). Above all, a young man’s first experience of freedom!
Today I’ve just heard that my oldest nephew Tim has been accepted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps, and will read Maths at Cambridge. Not the same college (he’s going to Clare; I went to Girton), but close enough to feel like something of a family tradition. Tim had to wait until now to find out, because the entrance exams he took have moved to after the A-levels.
I know it’s a vain hope in older people to influence the young, but I still venture to hope Tim can experience the benefits of student life I enjoyed, while avoiding my mistakes. In particular, my advice to any bright youngster starting at Uni: the hardest thing you’ll face is to unlearn what you learned at school, that you never have to work, and everything is far too easy. You’ve just reached the point where “why are you patronising us with such trivia” no longer applies.