Neil Cunningham studied Medicine at Trinity and graduated last year. He is now working as a first year doctor at Northampton General Hospital doing an Academic Foundation Programme, combining clinical work and management. As the first in his family to go to university he offers his top three tips for Freshers this term.
I come from a place called Dromore in County Down in Northern Ireland. I studied at a school called Banbridge Academy. I was the first in my family to go to University, and with that, the first to study Medicine.
Have an open mind and be open to new things. It’s so easy to come with a prejudice about what other students will be like and about what it means to be a Cambridge student. Almost always, the stereotypes aren’t true. Of course, the work can be difficult, and there are lots of quirky traditions like formal dinners that you might not be used to. But you should throw yourself into them completely – we’re so lucky to attend a university rich in history and tradition, so make the most of it! In a few years, once you graduate, you’ll quickly realise that all of the weird and wonderful opportunities that you had as a Cambridge student are no more.
Try not to compare yourself to others. For me, moving from a small school where you always topped the class, to a university where everyone topped their respective classes was difficult at the beginning. Suddenly you’re not the best anymore! But that’s ok! The great thing about Cambridge is that everyone comes from completely different backgrounds, different countries, and different cultures. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet new and interesting people, learn from each other, and cross paths with those who you would otherwise never have the opportunity. Make the most of freshers’ week to talk to as many people as possible!
Take your time. Starting university is a daunting experience, full of many first-time experiences, from living independently to managing your own finances. It could so easily become overwhelming, so just take your time to settle in and take each day as it comes. You don’t need to have your whole life sorted and set in stone in just one week. Your friendship circles will undoubtedly change as you settle in, your ideas about what you want to get from university will change, and opportunities that you will have never expected will come knocking! So take your time, and things will always fall into place.