A letter to my children

In Cambridge we have the weird tradition of a parenting system, where 2nd years can get college children: it’s basically a buddy system to help freshers integrate into Cambridge life. Below is info for Girton Economists, but most should apply for Cambridge Economists.

Dear Kids,

Hi, my name is Rhys and I’m your college father. Your college mother is ***, who reads English and should be shortly in touch to fill in any gaps I miss. We are your college parents, every Cambridge student is assigned these when they start and it’s our job to give you information and act as a student pastoral outlet to help you settle in. Along with this email you can contact us (email or Facebook) if you have any questions and we can do our best to help our point you in the direction of somebody who can.

This is quite a long email, although there are many things I’ll neglect to mention, as I imagine you’re quite anxious and want lots of details about what to expect. Don’t let this put you off though!

A bit about me – I am a second year economist, and live in Hertfordshire. My A-Level results weren’t that spectacular (relative to Cambridge) and I’m not that mathsy, yet I’ve managed to survive so far! I’m quite boring and the only societies I participate in are economics-based (CSEP, Marshall and Joan Robinson) but am looking to row in Michaelmas (what we call the first term) this year.

Along with the general things you’ll need to bring to live, I’d suggest you bring the following to Girton: extension cords, Ethernet cables (not everywhere gets wifi, so perhaps a wifi box if you have an iPad etc), bedding, towels, a computer/laptop. Girton is the only college to have an indoor swimming pool, so you may want to bring your trunks. We also have a weights and multi-purpose gym. You may be aware of a thing called Formals (not compulsory, but fun): this is a posh dinner, which you will need to wear a suit for. You will also need to wear a suit for things like your Matriculation signing and dinner. So, in short, bring a suit or two. Other than that, most people just wear casual clothes, so you won’t need to dress smart for lectures/supervision etc unless this is what you’d normally wear. Don’t forget stationary, folders, notepads, toiletries and pots and pans. Each corridor has a kitchen so you’ll have the opportunity to cook yourself if you so wish. Personally, I always eat in Hall (cafeteria) except breakfast, as this is fairly cheap (around £3 for a meal), and I’m lazy. But I know people that would only cook their own food and Saturday dinner isn’t catered for.

I’d recommend you bring a little electrical heater as it gets a little chilly in Autumn until the central heating is turned on. I also brought a mini-fridge as there is little storage space in kitchens and I didn’t want my milk stolen! But most people don’t do this. Note that you will be charged for extra electricity use, my fridge cost me a whole £6 in electricity over the year.
If you’ve looked at a map you will notice that Girton is in the geographical periphery of Cambridge, therefore you will need to bring a bike. Make sure this is a comfortable one and has lights, functioning breaks, gears (Castle Hill can be a bit of a bugger) and you have a helmet (don’t be an idiot). For *** it should take about 10 minutes to reach the Economics faculty and lecture halls. Town is also about 10 minutes away in a different route. When you arrive at Cambridge you will probably be given a subject-specific bike tour by me and another econ.
On the matter of workload I wouldn’t worry too much now. The best thing you can do is relax so you are prepared for 8 weeks of hard work. I think as long as you are well organised then there is no need for working until 3 in the morning. It’s also a misconception that we spend our whole time working in Cambridge. Yes, we have short terms but there are lots of societies to get involved in, plus we get a social life. There is some more information below for *** about the econ workload, but like I say, rest up before term starts! Also, a good bit of advice your Macro supervisor, ***, gave me before I started was to enjoy reading before term starts – you won’t have time or energy to do any non-textbook reading when you get here!

Economic Specific Info
Economic lectures happen Monday-Friday and in the first year are usually 9-11 but you won’t necessarily have 3hrs per day for the whole week (I think it averages around 10 per week, but depends on time of year). Most of the lectures occur in one building on the Sidgwick site, near the Faculty – called the Marshall. Technically the Marshall is the library, and the Faculty building is called the Austin Robinson building (husband of Girton alumni Joan Robinson), but we often just call it the Marshall.

Supervisions are 6 per fortnight, some will be in College, or in our town outpost of Wolfson Court (a good place to have lunch – located on the route between Girton and Sidgwick).
You might find this blog post interesting (https://learneconomicsonline.com/blog/?p=379) as it gives a summary of what you will study, etc. Don’t feel obliged to read this, and certainly don’t let it put you off. Feel free to share with friends if you like.
Your DoS (Director of Studies) is going to be *** who is awesome! You don’t need to buy any books beforehand because everything is available online and in the Marshall Library. The module most people found hard was stats so if you are going to do any work before you get here (but seriously don’t feel like you have to, I didn’t) then my advice would be to look over/learn S2 and S3, particularly hypothesis testing and linear regression. But don’t tire yourself out before you get here.

Hope this hasn’t overloaded you with too much information. Best thing to remember is not to worry. There will be loads of information and people to help you during Freshers week. You will also find me and *** (hopefully) during this week. We’ll try and hunt you down! I’ll also take *** on the subject bike ride with a friend and *** and I will prepare a family dinner on one of the days (don’t expect much though!).


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