Cambridge has been home to Romans, Vikings, King William of Normandy, and Pink Floyd. Most importantly, Cambridge has been home to one of the top five universities in the world: the centuries-old University of Cambridge. Today, Cambridge is still filled with cobblestoned medieval roads, winding canals bobbing with punting boats, and the clinking of glasses in local pubs. It is here where students, professors, scientists, prime ministers, and poets alike have shared a pint and a thirst for academic excellence. Studying abroad in Cambridge gives students the chance to become a part of a city-wide university culture steeped in British history and modern innovation.
Subjects & Courses
Course Structure. To study abroad at the University of Cambridge, which is actually a federation of thirty-one colleges under the Cambridge legacy, each acting as independent institutions with their own traditions and identities, you can apply directly to one of the colleges or through a partner program. Eight of the colleges offer a select number of spots to students applying directly for yearlong study abroad in Cambridge. Partner programs such as IFSA-Butler or Arcadia University are connected to specific colleges and are available as summer, semester, or yearlong programs. Admission to any college within the University of Cambridge is competitive as academics are extremely rigorous.
As a study abroad student at the University of Cambridge, you must apply to one department from which you will take all of your courses. Within the colleges, a course is called “a paper” while your major or field of study is called a “course” or a “Tripos.” These classes include a combination of lectures, readings, and essays. Another distinct part of studying abroad in Cambridge is the culture of “Supervisions”: classes of four or five students taught by one professor. These classes are discussion-based and require a high degree of participation in weekly meetings. Almost all courses include a timed essay as a final exam too.
If you are interested in studying outside of the University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University is an excellent option for study abroad students. It is one of the largest public universities in Eastern England with an exceptional reputation in the sciences, offering a less intense academic experience that is still immersed in the university culture of the city.
Areas of Study. Cambridge is one of the premier universities in the world and offers all fields of study, but it is particularly well known for its science and engineering departments. Silicon Fen, the region surrounding Cambridge, is home to high-tech businesses focused on software, electronics, and biotechnology. This large scientific community is a significant contributor to the University’s widespread reputation in these academic fields.
Life in Cambridge
It is said that Cambridge is a university that just happens to have a city built around it. Home to Pink Floyd, the origins of soccer (football), and a large student population, the city of Cambridge is steeped in historic landmarks and, of course, a reputation for good pubs.
Each college within the University of Cambridge has its own culture and traditions, such as punting (using a pole to steer your flat-bottomed boat along Cambridge’s waterways), not walking on the lawns of campus (that privilege is reserved only for professors), or dressing formally for meals in the hall. Participating in your college’s way of life is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the daily life of a British student.
Cambridge also hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Cambridge Folk Music Festival, the Cambridge Film Festival, and the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, during which theatrical performances are staged in the gardens of various colleges. The University and the city are inextricably linked—the Cambridge Corn Exchange is a well-known concert venue in the city that has seen the likes of Queen, The Who, and David Bowie…but it also sometimes serves as an examination hall for university students.
An important piece of University of Cambridge culture is its rivalry with Oxford University—or as students call it, “the other place.” The competition between these two highly esteemed universities is fierce, which comes to a head in The Boat Race: a yearly crew race between the two schools on the Thames River.
Partner programs provide students with day-trips and overnight excursions, but solo traveling in and around the city is also easy. Bicycling through Cambridge is very popular and the Cambridge Railway Station connects directly to major train stations and airports in London, which is just one hour away.
Accommodation & Visas
Housing is provided by your college and you will most likely be placed in a single-study bedroom located on or near campus, which is very similar to American university dorm life. Your accommodation will be with other university students and will have limited cooking appliances.
All colleges have a “servery” or a “buttery” on campus; that is, an informal cafeteria to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is where a majority of students eat their meals. Students may also attend three-course dinners in the “Formal Halls” of the college (think the Great Hall in Harry Potter) where you must dress properly to eat in historic, candle-lit rooms with other students and professors. This tradition reaches back hundreds of years and shouldn’t be missed.
In order to study abroad in Cambridge you will be required to obtain a visa, if you plan to study in the United Kingdom for six months or longer; the appropiate visa is called a Tier 4 Student Visa. When applying for a student visa, you must apply at least six weeks prior to your course (not travel) start date. However, you may not apply for this visa more than ninety days prior to the course start date. If you are studying in the UK for less than six months then you may enter as a “Student Visitor” with the appropriate documentation. Be sure to thoroughly read through the application process and regulations on the British Governments Visa and Immigration website (or find an embassy in your home country in GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory)
Benefits & Challenges
The universities in Cambridge are challenging schools, so you should expect to dedicate a large amount of time to your studies. The exchange rate between the pound and the dollar makes living in the UK somewhat expensive, but take advantage of student deals and pricing on everything from transportation to movie tickets. Most importantly: be prepared for rain and bring waterproof shoes!
Studying abroad in Cambridge encourages you to learn through both your schoolwork and the streets of your city. What better way to expand your global views than to study in Cambridge, home to one of the best universities in the world?