December 2013: Cambridge (Part 2, interview)

FYI, this is a continuation of yesterday’s post, so please read that before this!

You will be pleased to know that I woke up on time on the morning of my interview, about 7.30 I think. All my alarms went off and I managed to force myself out of bed. Now, as I said, there was no sink in the room, so I was all ready to go down the hall to brush my teeth etc. The room had a Yale lock on it, which meant it would lock automatically if the door got closed. I therefore needed to take my key with my every time I went somewhere else, even if I just ran across the corridor to the toilet. In case you haven’t guessed what’s coming…I locked myself out. We don’t have a Yale at home, so I left the room without my key and then heard the lock click, and realised I had no key and no phone and was carrying a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, wash bag, and was wearing pyjamas, small dressing gown, and bed socks.

I then walked down this second longest corridor in Europe (without the towel and stuff and OK, not even the whole thing, but it was still pretty long), through the Buttery, which was being cleaned (wet socks), and down to the Porters’ Lodge (i.e. Reception). My locked out problem was met by ‘you’re meant to wait until you come here to get locked out’, but they gave me another set of keys and I walked all the way back to my room, opened it for my original key, and then carried on with getting ready for my day. Everything else about getting up was fine, except I made the mistake of trying to put foundation on after washing my face and it was not a good look.

I was sort of late to breakfast (not late as such but later than I’d planned), and was slightly disappointed because it was just toast and cereal – it was their holidays though so the catering staff were probably away. I wasn’t greatly hungry either so I just grabbed some dry toast (not a fan of sunflower spread) and a banana, and also a free apple juice, and sat with the people I’d met the night before.

Once breakfast was done I returned my keys to the Porter, and left my suitcase in the applicant waiting room (I say left, but I was there most of the time). There was a LOT of tension in the room and the sheepdogs (current students) were trying to engage us, and get us doing some jigsaw puzzles.

I was soon taken to read a text in preparation for my first interview. It was fairly interesting, and something I would love to find to read again but alas, I cannot remember the specifics. It was a preface to a book about writing history or something like that. Once I was in the actual interview they asked me some questions from what I’d read, including “What is bad history?” (answer: it took me ages but it’s where you take one part of history without considering its context or other aspects of that event – message/comment for a proper answer!!). They also asked about my essay on the personalities of the Tudors and early Stuarts that I had sent them, and of my thoughts on memoirs and how reliable they are (answer: gives a personal account but can be rose-tinted).

Once that was done it was back to the waiting room, where we tried so hard not to discuss the interviews and had some horrible free tea. By around 12 it was time for the exam that we had to do to test our skills and reading and stuff. It was a book review and we were asked to summarise what the books were about and I think contrast them (if anyone reading this was there, can you shed some more light?). After that we had lunch, which I bought for an extortionate price from the buttery, but it was rather nice – if I remember rightly it was fish and chips.

People started leaving after this so the waiting room became more and more empty. Eventually it reached my turn for my second interview, and I wasn’t even all that nervous! I went in and they started by asking me about the essay on the power of the German Kaiser up to 1914. They particularly wanted to know how the junkers and elites differed and who the elites were (answer: I basically used the words interchangeably but I didn’t say that, I mumbled some umming and then struggled to name the elites in modern Britain – somehow a Lord who’d lost his estate came into conversation). I think there must have been some further questions but I can’t remember them!

It was finally time for me to go home, although I was taking a detour and spending a night at my aunt’s house before heading home the next day. I took a taxi to the station and then found a train to Bishops’ Stortford, where I was picked up by my aunt and my cousin. We had my favourite for dinner (spag bol) and I grabbed an amazing shower before watching the Gareth Malone choir programme (which I can’t remember the name of!!) and going to bed.

My journey started fairly early the next morning, although the train station wasn’t far. I got on a train towards Tottenham Hale, where I then changed to the tube (with a suitcase and rucksack in tow) and got the Victoria Line all the way to Victoria. It was certainly busy and it took a while for me to get a seat, not least because I was clutching my suitcase for dear life. At Victoria there was a different story – although the train I needed wasn’t displayed on the boards and I had to use the large gate due to being a railcard holder, I still got the train easily and got a seat in a deserted carriage.

I arrived at Hove, made the short walk up to school, and dumped my stuff with my mum in the Maths office. I then went straight back to whatever lesson I was meant to have (Maths I think). Normality restored.

Oh, and for the record I didn’t get into Cambridge and, after my grilling in interview 2, was seriously considering withdrawing. My friend Lara did get in though, so I will visit her to catch a bit of the Cambridge vibe!!

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