Clare College Cambridge

Natural Sciences Biological

Anna Peel

District High School, Texas, USA

The biggest question I faced when applying to university was what subject I should focus on. This was a problem; I love literature and science equally, so many weeks were spent agonizing over the issue. Eventually I found a better question to ask: in which subject can I really work on the edge of the unknown? The answer to that was, of course, science. Only Cambridge offered the sort of whole-scale course I was looking for - Natural Sciences, a vibrant environment in which interdisciplinary exchange is not only possible but sought after.

As I was in America at the time, visiting individual colleges in person was impossible; I chose Clare because of the musicality and friendliness for which it was renowned, and because the gardens looked beautiful. All three things were more true than I could have realized. Nearly everyone you talk to here plays an instrument or sings, and although some are intimidatingly skilled, the majority are happy to sing or play with you at the drop of a hat; the atmosphere in supervisions is always one of friendly cooperation, and there's always someone willing to help you through a tricky topic or week; and the gardens are open in revision term to anyone who can't stand the sight of the library any more and simply must finish their reading upon a bench near a pool filled with lilies. I've heard people from other colleges say similar things about Clareite friendliness, so it's not just bias!

Clare is also the perfect environment for extracurricular activities. Sure, the work at Cambridge is time-consuming, but the Directors of Studies and supervisors here never insist that work become your whole life. The boat club is predictably one of the friendliest on the river, we have an unauditioned choir that sings music from a wide range of genres (world folk music, musicals, popular songs)... there is even a knitting club that meets in one of the most comfortable rooms in college to drink tea and make woollen goods, and a gardening club with its own allotment in Colony. I honestly couldn't have chosen a better college (and this may be bias, but it is wholehearted bias.)

My first year courses were Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, and Biology of Cells. The three were surprisingly complementary. I would recommend that any curious first-year look into Earth Sciences, especially if they haven't considered it before; the course is taught by lecturers unafraid to admit that the material is evolving as they speak, and has a variety of field trips to get you out of the Cambridge "bubble". This year, I'm taking Earth Sciences A, Plant Sciences, and Animal Biology, and hoping that third-year-course decision time does not come before I have managed to clarify the direction of my passions. After a summer doing ecological field research in Peru and trekking across the French Alps putting newfound geological knowledge to use, I know that I want to spend my life in the field, and I know that the courses offered here will help me along the way, no matter what route I choose.