When you apply to Cambridge on UCAS, you’ll be given the opportunity of choosing a college. With just under 30 to choose from, this can seem intimidating – but it needn’t be. The important thing to remember is that all colleges are more similar than they are different: they all offer great teaching, accommodation for three years, all the essential social and study facilities, and a wide range of students from different backgrounds and with different interests. This means that everyone becomes convinced that their college is the best as soon as they arrive – even if they didn’t originally choose it. So, don’t agonise about it. Whatever choice you make, you’ll be happy. Promise.
BUT we believe that Christ’s is obviously the best college. And we’ve come up with a list of 10 good things about Christ’s which don’t apply (or at least not as much) to those other colleges...
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Let’s get this out of the way first: Christ’s is the most central college in Cambridge. Our main gate looks out onto Lion Yard (the main shopping precinct which contains all the big high street shops you can name) and the market square. There are about 6 banks within 5 minutes from College on foot, and probably 40 places where you could buy a sandwich and a coffee (including 3 Starbucks and 3 Caffe Neros). Sainsbury’s is 2 minutes away. Two of the big nightclubs are each opposite one of the College gates; both of the main student theatres are just round a few corners. Some of the faculty and lecture buildings are a little further away, but no more than 10 minutes or so on foot (and it’s often a nice walk to get to them). All of this makes Christ’s a really convenient place to live, saving you time for more important stuff. It’s also a great ‘walking college’: you don’t necessarily need a bike, and I’ve taken the bus once in 3 years here.
You’d think that being right in the centre of town would make Christ’s grimmer and noisier than most colleges – but it really isn’t. Christ’s itself is a world apart from all that: you’ll be amazed how calm everything suddenly becomes as soon as you step into First Court. The Fellows’ Garden at the back of College feels like a country park (complete with beehives!), compressed TARDIS-like into the centre of Cambridge, and it’s kept in bloom all year by our gardeners. Throw in a sixteenth-century chapel and dining hall, and the new Darwin Garden, and it’s pretty unmissable...
Some of the other old colleges lure you in with pretty buildings, but only let you live in them for one of your three years! All Cambridge colleges can offer you accommodation for the length of your degree – but Christ’s is rare in offering most of that accommodation within its walls. The only people who live out of College in houses are half of the second year, and those houses are on Jesus Lane and King Street, about 3 minutes from the back gates. Furthermore, the accommodation itself is great: cheap, often with ensuite bathrooms, and there’s lots of choice in terms of architectural style. Rooms range from sixteenth-century garret flats in First Court, to wood-panelled sets in Third Court and bright contemporary rooms in New Court.
Colleges vary a fair bit in size, from the very big (Trinity and St John’s) to the smallest (Peterhouse, Magdalene and Corpus). Christ’s is slightly below average, with about 125 undergraduates in each year. Everyone here feels that this is the ideal size: big enough for you to find a group of close friends, but small enough for you to know the name of everyone in your year and always have someone to chat to.
Christ’s just about has it all. Our library is well-stocked and, unusually, open 24 hours a day – handy for last-minute essay deadlines! Our cosy bar is conveniently next door to the library and has recently been refurbished. In the Yusuf Hamied Centre, we have one of the best college theatres, a free gym and squash court, a TV room, and a function room for parties. The College is one of very few to have its own Visual Arts Centre, complete with artists-in-residence who run exhibitions and life-drawing classes. And the big thing: we’re one of only three colleges to have its own swimming pool, tucked away in the Fellows’ Garden and available throughout Easter Term.
The great thing about the collegiate system is that extracurricular activities – sport, music, drama, extreme ironing (yes, really!) – are organised at two levels: university-wide for those who want to take them up seriously, and at college level for those who simply want to have fun. Christ’s is great for helping you with the latter: Christ’s fields a team in all the major university supports, and punches above its weight in most of them (particularly hockey, tennis, cricket and water polo); our music society, CCMS, runs a range of groups catering to different tastes; CADS, the drama society, puts on several shows a term, ranging from serious plays to sketch shows; we’ve also got a great Film Society, which shows recent releases for £3 from the comfort of our theatre. And, if there’s not a club for you, you can find like-minded people to set it up with and even get funded by the College: recent societies that started like this include film-making, table tennis, politics and climbing.
Christ’s is gaining a bit of a reputation as ‘the friendly College’, and it’s mainly for a combination of Reasons 4, 5 and 6 above. It never feels too cliquey as we’re quite a small student body and everybody mingles together. Different groups of people work together to create events that everyone will enjoy: for example, the students’ union collaborates with CCMS to organise laid-back blues nights (with cocktails!) There’s a strong sense that the taking part counts at Christ’s and everyone’s encouraged to try new things. We hold stand-up nights each term in the bar, in which many of the performers are trying it for the first time – and they can because of its supportive environment. And from there some have gone on to bigger comedy things like Footlights...
If you do find yourself in any sort of difficulty at any point while you’re here, Christ’s has a great support system to offer you advice. Experienced senior members of the College act as personal Tutors, each in charge of keeping an eye on a small group of students. They’re supported by a full-time Chaplain, a Nurse who’s available every morning and, most recently, a team of students offering peer welfare clinics. Plus we’ve got the friendliest Porters in Cambridge – handy if you find yourself locked out of your room at 1am!
If the support that you require is financial, Christ’s can also help. We aren’t the richest college, but are very good at using that money for the right thing: supporting students whether that’s through book grants, travel grants or hardship funds. Christ’s (and Cambridge in general, for that matter) is also a cheap place to live: rents are below the university average; food in our canteen is heavily-subsidised, so it’s about £3 for a two-course meal, and our Formal Hall (a three-course dinner held in the sixteenth-century hall) is famously cheap at about £6. And, as we mentioned above, you won’t need to worry about bus fares...
This isn’t because we couldn’t think of a tenth reason! It’s our way of saying that Christ’s can be what you make of it, because together we’re an active community working to make the College a better place for everyone. Christ’s JCR Exec (our term for our individual Students’ Union) have recently worked with the Fellows on developments like refurbishing the bar and restructuring room rents; new clubs and societies are founded each year and receive funding for the College. Whatever you want to do with your three (or four or more!) years in Cambridge, Christ’s can provide the resources and like-minded people to make it happen!